In the last lesson, we looked at how to choose your computer graphics specialty and the differences between being a specialist and a generalist. Now, we're going to dig into networking.
To start with, what is "networking"? Google's Dictionary puts it this way: networking is "the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts." Put another way, it's about meeting people and being friendly, and recognizing the mutual benefit that can come from it.
Obviously, it's important to be good at your craft, but you should also be kind and work on fostering relationships with others. The vast majority of my own jobs and opportunities have come as the result of people I know or people who know people I know. Not through simply sending in a portfolio and job application.
As discussed in Lesson 3, I got my current job partly because of my background, but also because I had a good relationship with our school's career services department. When they were contacted by a company seeking candidates, it was an easy recommendation to make. Without that relationship and recommendation, I may not have even known about the job, let alone gotten hired. The more people you know and make a positive impression on, the more opportunities you'll have.
Now, networking is not easy, and to many, myself included, it seems kinds of intimidating. It's uncomfortable to walk into a room of strangers and start engaging in small talk. It's awkward for most people.
One thing you can do is plan for networking events by setting small goals for yourself. On the CG Chatter Podcast, Lead UX Recruiter Maureen Lawson recommended not expecting to leave there with a long list of job opportunities. Rather, plan on walking around, talking to a few people, and aiming to leave with, say, three new potential leads – three people you've talked to who seemed to know their stuff and maybe a valuable connection in the future.
Maureen also recommends pumping yourself up beforehand and getting into a positive mood. Listen to upbeat, energetic music. As she puts it, "That's not the time to flip through obituaries" or "listen to funeral dirge music."
So we know that networking is really fairly simple. It's about meeting and connecting with others. The other aspect is finding out where you can network.
As mentioned previously, schools will often help arrange job fairs and networking events, so absolutely take advantage of those. Look for local industry events and meetups you can go to. Even if they're not explicitly billed as networking events, these are great chances to meet others. Networking can be done virtually. Search around for online meetups, where you can connect with folks from the comfort of your own home.
The book "The Freelance Manifesto" by Joey Korenman, the founder of School of Motion, has some excellent advice on how to find and reach out to people that could connect you with new projects or a role in a company.
Motion Hatch also has a helpful exercise of tracking down nearby people in your field on LinkedIn, then seeking them out on social media and connecting to them through there. It may seem like the people you most want to connect with are employers and clients, but it's just as valuable to have lots of connections with peers in your field.
Peers could pass off projects to you when they're too busy, or vice versa. You could collaborate together on a bigger project. Or maybe you're connected with someone in a different field with a complementary skill set. You may be an animator but need some audio help, so you reach out to a contact who specializes in audio and create a great project together.
Internships are also a great way to network or doing an informational interview. Basically, do anything you can to connect with new people and companies in a positive and friendly way. Good connections are helpful for everyone.
Your task: Look into the ways you can easily start networking and make it a regular habit. Set small goals to make a certain number of new helpful connections. And likewise, put yourself in the shoes of someone else doing the same thing. If someone reaches out to you, asking for help on something or simply asking to connect, be as generous, open, and friendly as possible. Connections are what will help your career thrive.
In the next lesson, we'll talk about different career opportunities in computer graphics.