I recently took part in a networking workshop at the BBC, writes Amy Walker, chaired by Simon Smith from the BBC College of Production. Joining me on the panel were Michelle Matherson, BBC Factual Talent Exec, and Caroline Meaby who runs the MGEITF Ones to Watch scheme.
Michelle talked about how to move on up in your TV career and how to get your CV noticed (liberally sprinkle your covering letter with programme ideas), and Caroline talked about the great networking opportunities at Edinburgh TV Festival via the Ones to Watch scheme, so if you have between 3 and 5 years’ TV experience you can apply – this also includes people who have had time out to raise children.
Here come some tips for networking when you get to Edinburgh, or when you join us at one of the brilliant Media Parents networking events. Whenever I talk about networking people generally roll their eyes and tell me they are rubbish at it, but I think anyone who likes talking to and finding out about people can be a successful networker – and enjoy it - so please read on.
Nervous? Prepare in advance. Find out who’s going to the meeting, what they do or what programmes they’re making, and when you get there try to connect with people who are in your field.
Guest lists from Media Parents events are usually published on the watercooler at www.mediaparents.co.uk in advance of the meeting, so you can work out who you’d like to talk to. At larger meetings where you don’t know people use Google images to work out who to make a beeline for – yes, it’s professional stalking but it works. If you know the delegate list or guestlist you can probably earmark someone to talk to. Most people are delighted to be approached.
Why am I doing this? Think about your reasons for networking, it will help you focus and stick to your guns. Don’t expect to get a job immediately – you’re primarily making contacts at this stage. People network for different reasons - to gather and exchange information, and to make friends as well as get jobs. It’s unlikely that you will hear about work straightaway, but you might make a contact that eventually leads to work – so play the long game.
Be yourself and put your best self forward. Think about how you’re presenting yourself – do you look like someone who can efficiently deliver a TV programme that looks good? Create the same impression of yourself that you’d want to put across at a relaxed job interview, so wearing similar clothing can help. Use social media, like the Media Parents website, to connect after the networking event. You can also take business cards to exchange.
Enjoy yourself. Don’t go overboard with the wine and get plastered, but do remember, networking is really just professional gossiping – it’s fun.
It’s a two-way conversation – LISTEN too. There is nothing worse than being talked at. Share what you know – about who’s hiring, or about where’s good to work – what goes around comes around.
Stage fright? Lyn Burgess from the Magic Key Partnership teaches this acronym to prompt conversation if you dry up:
There’s a link to Lyn’s networking session for Media Parents at the end of this blog.
Follow up. Take business cards with you. I recently saw an Editor hand over a business card with a QR code on the back, it made it very easy to reconnect. Use social networking to follow up afterwards – you can use the Media Parents network to reconnect too and as most people’s profiles have photos on them it’s easy to track people down if you’ve forgotten names.
Be more visible online. Think of social media as your professional megaphone – make sure your profiles are up to date, or direct people to one up-to-date source like your page on www.mediaparents.co.uk. Make sure you represent your professional self well - keep photos and public facing information on message!
Take your leave politely. If you’re stuck with someone, or get the feeling they’re stuck with you do say “It’s been lovely to talk to you. I think we should meet some other people too.” Everybody understands that.
And do thank the organisers of the event afterwards, it’s nice to be remembered for good manners.
More on the BBC College of Production here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/academy/collegeofproduction/
Useful links on networking: