Although I’ve heard the saying “It’s not about what you know it’s who you know” repeatedly over the course of my lifetime, it isn’t until recently that I’ve come to really think about networking.
In my experience, people notice when you work hard at something and provide what was asked of you as well as make the process an enjoyable experience. People notice your ability to show up on time, they notice whether or not you’ve come to a meeting prepared and they notice whether or not you’re able to bring ideas forward and provide valuable feedback.
During my time freelancing, more than half the jobs I received were through referrals. At the time I never thought about networking or making contacts, it’s just what happened naturally.
Coworkers who’d seen my work started coming to me when their children were having birthdays, friends when they were getting married. The circle just continued to expand. Someone saw something I’d designed, liked it and asked the person where they’d gotten it. One logo and all of a sudden I had requests to design several more.
I think skill factors in as well because people had to have been pleased with the product in the first place. But part of why people often recommended me wasn’t just skill alone, it was that I was “easy to work with”. Soft skills mattered as much as hard skills, if not more.
People recommended me because of my ability to connect with people, for big clients as well as smaller ones. The mother of the groom once made a quilt of the wedding invitation I’d designed because it was so specific to the personality of the couple. What I designed for them would never have worked for anyone else but they and both of their families loved it. So much so that the bride later sent me a photo of the matching quilt.
After moving to Toronto I wondered whether or not networking would be more difficult in a city much larger than the one I’d grown up in. Perhaps it was my own small town ignorance but I thought that it was something that was more likely in a small town because “everyone knows everyone”. I’m discovering however that despite the size it is much the same here as it was back home.
As I’ve gotten to know students and faculty within my own program I’ve begun receiving emails with contacts who could potentially be able to provide placements or potential jobs with a focus in accessibility.
In September I was intimidated by the idea of having to find a placement and now I’ve recently asked whether I could have it at two different companies. It’s still too early to know whether or not any of my options will materialize but it’s nice to see that doors are starting to open without me necessarily having to knock.
That’s the beauty of networking. Rather than go knocking door to door without knowing which rooms are occupied or what’s inside, networking allows you to target specific doors. Someone is more likely to answer if you already know that they’re home and the person is expecting you.
This logic was also in part my reason for applying for a mentorship program through the Association of Registered Graphic Designers. Meeting with my mentor for the first time this evening made me appreciate the importance of getting to know other professionals.
Although the amount of job postings at the time that I was job hunting in part fueled my decision to enroll in this program, it was nice to hear from someone who’s not in any way affiliated with my program that there are a lot of potential job opportunities for me when I’m done.
I’ve never really struggled to find work but it’s still nice to be provided with the reassurance that I’m making a good decision. Having someone outside of the school that is also willing to provide feedback on things like my LinkedIn profile, bio, portfolio and website is such an invaluable thing to have. I’m very thankful and am looking forward to meeting with her again.