The aim for ZigZag recently has been to tackle an issue that I’m either currently facing or that I think needs some light shed on. Something I think could help a lot of people is the ability to network more freely and easily. Part of the reason !GWAK has been such an attractive concept to people is that it’s a huge family of exciting, ambitious creative people, and anytime anybody needs a collab job done, there’s always somebody who you can easily get in touch with for creative help.
But outside of a very accessible, friendly space like !GWAK, it can be hard to find events to attend, or people to connect with. Often you’ll see adverts for “networking events” which you might have to miss out on because of work. People find it hard to make time for people, nowadays.
It’s important to keep your head screwed on straight - networking is an important skill that allows you to meet new people and find new collaborators. That’s why I push it so much within !GWAK - collaboration is what we’re all about.
Firstly, I find that it’s something you have to practise. I was terrible at networking when I started, and through volunteering at my local arts centre and picking up a few sound tech jobs, I was able to chat with more people. Wherever you are, if you take a moment to talk to somebody about what they do, you might find that they have something interesting to say and that there is value to what they’re trying to tell you, so it’s important to walk into a conversation with an open mind, at least trying to remove any preconceptions of complete strangers.
This might come across as slightly obvious, but be nice to people. You won’t get anywhere with negative conversation, and you’re more likely to form a better bond with new people if you’re talking to them in a positive manner. Listen to what they have to say, ask questions, take note of their opinions and converse. You’ll also be doing yourself a favour by remaining kind and considerate whilst around new people, keeping your arms open to new conversation rather than shunning yourself from the world. Develop an interest in people, be interested.
Another important thing to note is that you can literally network anywhere. You don’t have to show up to networking events every week to meet new people, you could be at a concert, an art gallery or just a pub and make new connections. As long as you remain open to new opportunities, you could be meeting somebody new every time you leave the house. And as daunting as it sounds, if you’re trying to get somewhere, whether that be to a point where you can sell your art online or you can write for the Guardian, a key part of getting there will be chatting and making friends with people. It’s who you know, not what you know.
Apart from the advantages that you’ll get, businesswise, from learning to network, it’ll open you up to new life opportunities and experiences. You’ll make new friends, meet new people and learn things about yourself and others in a way that can’t be achieved on the internet.
I hope this has helped a little bit. Maybe given you a bit of a kick up the arse. Get out there, start socialising with people, however hard it may be for you! You’ll get better at it, become more confident when talking about your trade and make some great new connections.
Huge thanks to Will Baker for editing this article for me! You can support his illustration work by following him on Instagram at @willbakerillustrator
I’ll see you all next month for the next ZIGZAG.