I’m what you might call an extroverted introvert. The short version of what that means is that I enjoy being around people but it takes energy for me to do it. I recharge when I’m home and away from the hubbub of the music cities and industry events. I’m telling you this because for my fellow introverts – and an inordinate of creative types are, indeed, introverted – I think it’s important to understand that networking can be done on your own terms and still become a vital and essential part of how you interface with the music industry. Networking doesn’t have to mean shouted conversations in crowded bars at 3am. And, unless that’s your thing, this should come as a relief. I thought I’d put down a few thoughts on how I go about framing the idea of networking for myself in case it helps.
I’ve said this before but very few lasting industry relationships are built entirely from one quick meeting at an event. The greater likelihood is that you’ll find yourself running into the same “usual industry suspects” in a variety of different settings until you’ve got at least a little common ground to work from. By not looking at every meeting with someone in the industry as a make or break networking opportunity, you’ll also remove a large amount of the social pressure which makes networking so distasteful to most of us. Be patient and let the relationships unfold. It will happen.
Something that has helped me over the years is flipping the typical script of what networking looks like by imagining, when I’m getting to know someone, how I might be able to help them. It’s amazing how looking at a networking relationship from the perspective of the person you’re meeting can lead to a more sincere and productive exchange. Often, especially early on in your career, it’s obvious what an industry exec can do for you. What’s less obvious is what you might be able to do to make their lives better/more interesting. Why not go into each meeting or networking event with that as your goal?
One of the things that still surprises me is how quickly people’s careers evolve and grow. That the person who was “fresh off the boat” a few years back is in a position of real responsibility today. A couple things to keep in mind. First, pay attention to your peers and make sure you treat them with the kind of respect and thoughtfulness you’d appreciate. Second, remember – always – that today’s secretary could be tomorrow’s music publisher. Be kind to everyone and, if you’re patient, good industry relationships will delvelop.
These days – after twenty-five years in the industry – I tend to think of networking as a way to keep in touch with old friends and celebrate our longevity in the careers we love. Also, I think of it as a way to stay connected to the industry that – for better or for worse – will always be a source of new friends, colleagues and business partners. We’re all people with the same kinds of hopes and dreams. Remember that and take some of the pressure off of yourself to succeed right away and networking will become a more organic and enjoyable part of your career.