Several months ago, I first wrote about networking. As I said back then, I am not what you might call a natural. I have since pondered the ins and outs of networking many times, and frequently wondered if I am doing enough of it and in the right way.
I am prompted to write about networking again because I attended a private view on Tuesday night for an exhibition at the Brighton Digital Festival, and found myself at it almost by accident. I should have known what to expect of course, as private views are primarily about networking. (And about free booze, of course. If you want to actually view the exhibition, forget it: it’ll be way too crowded to see anything and everyone will be way too busy elbowing past you to reach someone more important than you, or the tray of canapés.)
The reason for attending the private view was so I could meet with someone I had spoken to only once before, at a festival, about a year ago. We met shortly after I had decided to give up my job (but long before I would actually do it) and I told her to get in touch if she ever had a project she might be able to use me on. Last week I suddenly received a message from her, asking if I want to get involved with a multi-arts event for the Digital Festival at the end of the month. Talk about networking! Turns out you don’t have to force yourself out from behind a pillar to talk to some suit at a stiff corporate event – you can do it in a tent at 2am, in a slightly dishevveled spacegirl costume made out of tinfoil and sellotape.
I agreed to get involved with the event, partly because I like the serendipitous nature of this request out of the blue, and also because it’s another thing for my CV. At the same time, I’m becoming increasingly aware that I am getting quite busy. All the work I am involved with seems to be gathering pace at the same time, and I will need to make some choices soon. So much for watching Jeremy Kyle in my pyjamas!
Back to networking. At the event on Tuesday night, I inevitably got chatting to a few people. They told me about their work, and then asked me what I did. I answered by talking about my career break, about volunteering at Blast Theory and my other project work. At least two people I spoke to suggested I come and work with them. I actually had to make it clear that I probably wouldn’t have a lot of time, to avoid raising people’s expectations. I’m quite amazed, really – I hadn’t even set out to ‘sell myself’ to anyone, and it kind of happened anyway.
So, what new insights can I draw from this? Probably just that people respond to you when you present yourself openly and honestly, and when they can tell that you care about what you say and do. Perhaps that I am better at selling myself than I previously thought. Maybe it’s easier to sell yourself when you just talk about doing things you enjoy and don’t think about selling yourself. Or, quite possibly, none of the above: the people I spoke to may have just pricked up their ears because I mentioned that I was currently working for free. In any case, I feel newly heartened by the experience. Having to choose between different things definitely beats a daytime pyjama date with old Jeremy…