Tell the truth. What does your "network" do? How many times do you actually plug into your so-called ‘network’? Now let's be honest. Your network, like many, may simply be a stack of hundreds of good-looking business cards that got the once over when it was handed to you and then was—most likely—cleverly rubber-banded together and then stashed away.
This is not a network. It's a dead-end, a business card graveyard that offers little more than a polite email after the initial face-to-face. "Hello. It was good meeting you. If you ever need..." Blah blah blah and yada yada yada, thank you very much. We've all heard it before and we've all done it before. Guilty as charged. It is possible to make the contact and connections work far more effectively, but we first have to be aware of what ails us to begin with.
From the moment you decide to follow your creative conscience, you become part of a "collective"; a much larger group of innovative, inventive and imaginative thinkers. As a “creative”, it's quite easy to plug into this braintrust. A wealth of real-time and pertinent information geared toward creative thought and solutions. So why doesn't this offer a front-row seat to amazing networking? One word: Trust.
Creatives are the coolest “haters” ever. We make nice—or fake nice—with the best of them but often refuse to truly work together even if we actually do work together. We are conditioned by our profession, and perhaps even going back to our scholastic training, to have a very critical view of our peers. Though we should be critiquing the work, we often make—and take—it personally, hampering the trust needed to work collaboratively. We also re-deploy that very kindergarten practice of covering your "answers" to oppose theft of your oh-so-original thoughts. One can't be faulted for wanting to protect intellectual property, but how can we get past this to be able to share information openly? Trust. Your network has to be closer to you. Call it “CONNECT-working.”
There must be an effective personal connection or the lines of communication will never be fully opened. Now that's not to say that you have to be a "BFF" with everyone in your professional circle, but let's be completely candid; If you don't like someone, or you aren't clicking on that interpersonal communication tip, all things said and shared will be filtered and tainted by the swing-and-miss communication with a person that you don't truly vibe with. Now some will say that's not a good business move, but as respectfully as possible; whatever.
For the majority of the white-collar world it's fine to blanket a tradeshow floor with contact numbers, cards and literature. They are going for a small response percentage by sheer volume of possible contacts. But for Creatives this won't work. Again, let's be real. How many times have we gotten (or given) a plastic smile and paper thin sincerity that's more annoying than motivating. We are looking for real information and networking by way of closer-knit connections with faces we know and trust. In this sense the exact opposite of popular belief holds true.
Your network is not more effective the more contacts you have. (See “business card graveyard” above.) Look to first narrow your focus so that your immediate group of contacts are in this trusted circle. From there be very selective about the specific people you deal with. This will go a long way. There is a good fit for all of our varying personalities and ways of working. Remember, fit is fantastic and connection is the key.
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