Ola Animashawun, the Creative Director of Euphoric Ink, knows all too well the importance of networking. He has 25 years of experience of working in theatre, is an Associate Director of the Royal Court Theatre and founder of the theatre’s Young Writers Programme. Ola is also a presenter, consultant, script editor, compere and producer. Here he gives some sounding advice on how and why networking will help you get ahead in your career.
Everyone has a network, and everyone you know is part of your network, and one way of helping you to succeed in the way you want to succeed, is to get your network to work for you.
“No man is an island”
You’ve probably heard the expression, “no man is an island” but have you ever really considered what this actually means? Basically, no one exists in perfect isolation.
We are all part of something and connected to other people in myriad ways. The connection starts with our family, extends to our friends, our hobbies, leisure activities, and eventually into our work and regular practices such as where we shop, where we worship, the causes we support, and the places we visit online etc.
All of this connects us to other people, puts us in touch with other people and gives us something ‘in common’ with a vast range of people from a broad spectrum of life’s experiences. So if you think about it, you know a lot of people.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”
Strictly speaking, the expression “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is not true. You have to know what you are talking about and you must be able to do what you can say you can do. However, if it’s career advancement you’re looking for, then you are also well-advised to know exactly who you know and get in touch with them. In other words network.
Think about it like this. If you want to buy a car, but you don’t know anything about cars, what does the wise person do? They ask around and they canvas opinion, starting with the people they know and trust, i.e. they go to their network for support.
And on it goes in terms of which dentist, which plumber, which university, which travel agency, which mobile device, which piece of software etc.. all through life.
“Make it clear who you are, what you’re about, what you can do and how well you can do it.”
So your career shouldn’t be treated any differently. So you have to go out there, make it clear (by appropriately and sensitively broadcasting) who you are, what you’re about, what you can do, and how well you can do it and then trust the process to help you to be in the right place at the right time. It does work.
“Networking is a mutual state of affairs”
One final and very important note. Networking is a mutual state of affairs. As you ask, be prepared for people to ask you in return, what do you know, who do you know, can you point them in the right direction etc? Then share, don’t hold back. Share your knowledge, and share your contacts. Creating a virtuous circle of mutual benefit as it were.
Now work on how you’re going to network by doing the following:
- Start by answering two very important questions to provide self-awareness and self knowledge:
a)What makes you tick, turns you on and off?
b) What do you want to do and want to be in terms of your career?
Be as clear, direct, simple, detailed, specific and succinct in your answers as possible – don’t stress it, its not a GCSE, just follow your instincts and you’ll realise you already have all the answers.
- Make a very good first impression – always – and then ensure you always make at least a good impression after that.
Think about and find out about the people around you – who they are, what they want and how you can be the solution to their problems.
Know your chosen field inside out – read the trade press, blogs, watch the vlogs, attend the trade events, clock the people, voices, trends, meet the people and make sure you remember them and they have a good reason to remember you.
- Be pitch perfect – have an informed opinion and choose when, where and how best to voice it.
Be ever generous – use your knowledge to help others to get what they want – become known the go-to person.
- Set yourself goals and targets – including the goal to review your targets and goals on a regular and specified basis.
If you want to get something then simply ask for it.
So there you have it. Understand that Networking is a key part of your work life, so like the foundation of all success, be strategic, diligent, and apply yourself to ensure you do it well. Do all of this everyday – little and often will suffice – but make sure you do do it, everyday.