Theatre/ TV/ Meeting & Event Production
New York, New York
This is not only an excellent question but one that should be addressed more often early on during high school along with resume writing, portfolio building and interview skills. Most professionals realize too late (when in a job transition) that they have neglected to build and nurture their network and are forced to go into hyperdrive. A great network is also important to every single job/ career.
As John mentioned, start with your online presence and then stretch into real world groups and relationships. A word of cautionary wisdom: set yourself up for success by spending some time studying some great LinkedIn profiles in your field and building out the best page possible before you start inviting others in to learn about you. Make them want to get to know you!
After you have a decent online community (or while you are building it out, if you have the bandwidth) start looking for local networking events that are free and open to the public. While some are very generic, others are focused on a specific field or group ( young professionals, women, religious groups) and all offer something different. If you can, find a friend to keep you company and offer support early on but be clear that you are there to meet new people and ask your friend to keep pushing you out into the crowd.
Get some basic but professional business cards (try vistaprint.com) and be sure you take one every time you hand one out. The most important thing is to follow up within a week of meeting someone. If I'm at an event where I collect multiple cards, I like to immediately make notes on the back to remind me of each person so I can add some personalized details in my follow up email. There's nothing worse than looking at a pile of cards In front of you and having no idea who they belong to. And your follow up email can be short and to the point: " I enjoyed meeting you at x, I was intreagued to learn about y. I would love to buy you a cup of coffee and pick your brain about z. Please let me know when you might be available. " And don't forget to sign it with your contact details. While everyone will not respond, you will start to build a community before you know it.
This professional recommends the following next steps:
- Create a professional online persona (make all personal social media private and carefully adjust settings on your public networking pages)
- Look for those in fields, jobs, businesses you are interested in and invite them into your circle. If you are 'cold calling' add a personal note telling them why you'd like to network with them.
- Join local networking groups and go to as many events as possible. Ask a friend to go with you the first few times for moral support. Collect (and hand out) cards being sure you notate who they belong to so you can follow up afterwards.
- Ask new contacts if you can take them out for coffee and pick their brain. Be clear about what you'd like to discuss and why and be sure to keep it on track and brief - it's just coffee. Follow up with a thank you note. Keep in touch but be sure not to always ask for something - just drop a note to say hi.