Networking advice from our New York hack
October 4, 2010 6 Comments
Alice Vincent – the Wannabe Hacks guest poster from Harlem – gives some excellent advice on network etiquette and how to act when you meet that Special One: the big-time editor.
‘Networking’ is one of those nasty verb/noun hybrids that is banded around as the key to success by those who have made it. Whether you fear it, crave it or are still unsure of what is really is networking is essential in the world of journalism.
And now more than ever, so get used to it.
For those in the latter category, networking is a means of making professional contacts through illusory informal means. Essentially, it’s talking shop. If you fear it, start putting on a brave face. If you crave it, well that’s half the trick.
I’m a pretty shameless networker: I figure this probably stems from a burning desire to write professionally, overt curiosity and – as a friend once said – “mad convo skills.” Essentially, I’m nosy, chatty and desperate to be a journo and if I have to talk my way up to the top I will.
Technically speaking, there’s no standard way in which these ‘networking’ conversations start. It might be something as natural as discussing how late the show is going to start with a writer from British Vogue from an ill-gotten seat at NYFW’s front row. It could be something as blatantly forced as asking what somebody does at a press conference. Whatever the means, the basic rules always apply.
Like a good piece of writing, don’t waste words. Get to the point, in a thoroughly natural manner (the hilarity of the whole situation is that all parties know it’s professional yet pretend otherwise). I normally name-drop the current or most relevant publication I’m writing for, the fact I’m still a rookie and casually suggest how the other person could help me out within the first two minutes. You’ll likely end up with an email address -whether it will come to anything is an entirely different matter.
Don’t get me wrong; approaching someone far more successful than yourself is pretty pulse-raising – but what’s the worst that can happen? In the last three years – since I fist started scouting around for work experience by asking pretty much everyone if they knew somebody in media (you’d be surprised how successful that is, my hairdresser knows the editor of Grazia) – nobody has been rude. Most have been charming, and some are the reason why I’m here in New York.
Three weeks of living in New York and the combination of Fashion Week, going to events attended solely by the young media types and meeting a ridiculous amount of new people has given me plenty of extra networking practice. So far, it’s resulted in a housing recommendation and something that looked suspiciously like a date. Still, what is noticeable about the networking scene here is the importance of an internet presence. Follow the right people on Twitter and people will start following you. If you’ve got a regularly updated, news-relevant or amusing blog then you’re sorted – I really should update mine more.
As much as this is a city of opportunity – less than a month here has proved that cliché to be true – it’s also one in which you have to make your own luck. Nobody’s going to give you a break for standing with a moleskine in the corner, regardless of how cool you think you look.
Be cute. Be keen. Be a geek and admit you need a hand.
But do it with an air of non-aggressive confidence and give them a reason to like you. If you’re an intern, say you’re from that publication. If you’re a freelancer, make out like you’re well-published. If you haven’t done either yet, just say you’d love to. What’s the worst that can happen?