Posted by StringOvation Team on Jun 7, 2017
Professional networking can be uncomfortable for a lot of people. Even socially-inclined folks feel networking can be a bit mercenary at times. It can feel like everyone’s constantly assessing how another person can benefit his or her business and career interests.
What a relief it is then to hear from a former schoolmate!
Listen, networking once you’re working and in the music industry (or any industry) isn’t necessarily that bad, but it doesn’t provide the opportunity to develop as deep or wide a network as you can build while you’re in college.
First, it’s college. Everyone is already pre-disposed to getting out there and meeting new people. That makes networking easier and more natural. College friends and acquaintances are also the only sorts of relationships where you can go years without being in touch but it only takes one call or email to re-open the connection.
Don’t miss out on this time to forge some of the best future professional contacts you can make. Whether you’re going to a music school or liberal arts college, you have plenty of opportunities to build a broad network.
#1: Take a leadership or responsibility role in your own department or music group.
There’s always more to be done in an academic department or school orchestra or band than just learning, practicing, and performing. Who’s responsible for their social media? Who helps organize visiting musicians to the school or your own performances outside the school? When you take on more responsibility than being a worker bee (or performer bee, if you will), you’ll naturally meet people in other areas of the music industry. Plus, this will increase your visibility and people will start seeking you out as someone worthwhile to connect to.
#2: Participate in other students’ creative projects.
Does your school have film, drama or dance departments? These students are constantly creating their own shorts and live performances, and they always need music to be a part of that. Is another music student or someone at the local radio station putting together an interesting project? Actively look for these opportunities and join the ones that sound interesting to you. You’ll not only expand your own artistic perspective and performance portfolio, but you’ll meet other pro-active, collaborative artists. When you think about networking, don’t limit yourself only to other music people, but also people who need music incorporated into their own field.
#3: Be active or start (if needed) a student arts organization on campus.
Not sure where to start? Here’s a list of one school’s many student-run arts organizations.
#4: Find a good mentor.
A mentor won’t be one of your classmates. By definition, a mentor is someone who’s already experienced some success in your field and who can assist you achieve as well. Someone who already has a well-developed professional network that they’ll tap you into. Not every professor, department administrator or even teaching assistant can be your mentor. They may all be there to help you learn and grow, but a mentor takes a more long-term, pro-active interest in supporting you. Talk to someone at the career office or your department head to find out if there’s a formal process for finding students mentors. If not, you can try some of these options to connect to the right mentor for you.
#5: Be active in your local musicverse on social media.
This will be the best way to find out about the organic opportunities to meet and create with other local student artists. Setting up the social media connections now also means it will be easier to hear about what they’re doing after college ends and to maintain contact with them.
These are all places and ways to find good connections who can help your professional development, but you need to do more than meet them. Here’s a bonus tip on how to be a good networker:
Be as proactive about giving and helping people in your network as you want them to be with you. One of the best ways to help people in your network is to share your network. If you don’t have the expertise or time to fill a need someone’s brought to you, think about who you can connect them with who can help them right now.
If you’re only taking or getting in touch with people when you need something, you’re not networking right.