Expanding your professional circle is important…but pretty vague. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to attacking big projects, if I don’t have bite size steps to take, I don’t take any at all. So, in the spirit of attacking this goal with real action, here are five steps you can take this month to meet more people in the industry and increase your opportunities to find work.
Today’s question comes to us from Ben C. who asks, “I know I need to get out there and meet people in advertising and marketing, but how exactly do I do that?”
First of all, let’s define our terms. Beyond anything else, “networking” is just a catch-all term for connecting with new people within a group. In our case, our group is advertising and marketing professionals. That may mean going out and shaking hands or it may even just mean meeting online.
The goal of networking is to make other people aware of your existence (or to remind them of your existence) and for you to become aware of theirs. Awareness may become familiarity, and familiarity may lead to opportunity; simple as that.
And, speaking of simple, networking doesn’t have to be difficult at all. In fact, here are five very simple steps you can take this month (or every month) to increase your reach within the industry.
1. Join LinkedIn groups.
Most people use LinkedIn in the same way that they use Facebook—they set up a page, connect with their friends/colleagues and maybe sometimes visit the home page to see what people are posting.
But if you’re not joining—and engaging in—LinkedIn groups, you’re missing out. Groups are essentially forums of people who have come together to discuss various topics. And they’re also a great place to find out about new trends, learn from other people’s experience and connect with other professionals.
Log on to LinkedIn and just do a quick search for “copywriting,” “marketing” and “advertising” to find some of the top groups to join. You can start with the group New & Aspiring Copywriters and keep joining others from there.
2. Attend one industry event.
I know, I know—it may not seem like a whole lot of fun to give up an evening to mingle with strangers. However…if you never mingle with strangers, you’ll never meet anyone new. For this reason, tip number two is get-out-of-the-house advice.
Do a quick Google search to find out what professional advertising and marketing associations are in your town. Groups like these often have a fee for joining (which you can decide whether or not you want to do) but also often host events that don’t require membership or have just a small door charge.
Pick an upcoming event, make sure you’ve got your business cards and get out there to meet people. Move from group to group, meet as many people as you can and don’t head home before two hours is up.
3. Find local designers.
Especially if you’re just starting out as a copywriter, you very much need to meet graphic designers—after all, if you need to create some spec ads, you certainly can’t design them yourself. (Read: Close out of Microsoft Paint and find someone who knows how to use Photoshop.)
Luckily, connecting with designers is pretty easy. All you have to do is a quick LinkedIn search to find designers in your area and, from there, you can wade through the listings to find the people that you’d like to get in touch with.
If you’re looking for a designer to collaborate on spec pieces with you, look for someone who’s at your same experience level. No designer wants to do work for free, but if you both want and need spec ads, there’s a much better chance they’ll be willing to work with you.
When you find designers you’re interested in getting to know, don’t just send them the standard LinkedIn “I’d like to add you to my professional network” message (which you should never be using anyway—you’re a copywriter, after all!). Personalize the message to let them know what intrigued you about them and, if you’re feeling especially bold, you can even suggest meeting up for coffee to network a bit and talk about what it’s like working as a creative in your town.
4. Check in with recruiters.
If you’re in the midst of wading in to find copywriting work, you’ve probably already sent your information to several recruiters in your town. (If you haven’t yet, do it!)
Chances are, though, it’s been at least a few weeks to a few months since you’ve been in touch with them. And recruiters are human, like all the rest of us, meaning that “out of sight” can often mean “out of mind.”
Now, they have their various systems for tracking talent and connecting…but why wait for a recruiter to get in touch with you? Being proactive is the name of the game. This month, reach out to your recruiting contacts. Let them know the new stuff you’ve been working on and just remind them of the kind of work you’re looking for. You never know—the exact job you want could have just come across their desks.
5. Schedule your own event.
Okay, before you start imagining passed hors d’oeuvres and invitations, remember: We’re all about keeping things simple.
When I say “schedule your own event,” all I mean is pick a bar, pick a night and send out an email to all of your professional contacts to invite them—and encourage them to invite/bring their own contacts.
Easy, right? And it’s easy for the people you invite; all they have to do is invite more people to show up. If you and your contacts spread the word and really encourage people to come, you could end up meeting dozens of new, interesting and maybe even valuable contacts.
Your turn! What easy ideas do you have for networking? Let us know in the comments below!