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Network and make a good impression

Students at Graduate Futures Week
Image curtesy of UAL

Networking is an important way to promote your business or service, get jobs and build long term connections. First impressions are important in any industry, but particularly when you are selling a service or business idea. Through experience and practice you can build your confidence, which is key to making a positive first impression.

Networking at Events

Networking events can be daunting, but it’s important to remember that everyone there is open to meeting new contacts. A confident tone, good body language and a positive expression will make you seem more approachable.

Be prepared

  • Write and rehearse your “elevator pitch”. If you meet somebody influential you may only have one chance to impress them. Have a clear, short and interesting description of your business or idea prepared. It’s worth testing it out on your friends and family to make sure it hits the right note.
  • Prepare 3 questions in advance that you can use to initiate conversation.
  • Always carry your business cards with you and give them out to anyone you talk to.
  • If you meet somebody interesting - ask them for their business card (aim to collect 5 or more during the event).
  • Bring examples of your work if it’s appropriate (this could be a digital portfolio on a phone/iPad).

Body language

Being mindful of your body language will help to ensure that you come across as confident, positive and proactive.

Here are some simple tips:

  • Sit or stand up straight.
  • Smile – this will help to put you and the people you speak to/approach at ease.
  • Keep your arms and legs relaxed and try not to fidget.
  • Try not to cross your arms as this can seem defensive or closed.
  • Show that you’re interested and listening by occasionally nodding or responding appropriately.
  • Keep to your own personal space.

Following up

  • If you meet anyone who expresses an interest in you/your work at a networking event, make sure you follow-up with them quickly.
  • If people gave you their business card, you may want to drop them an email e.g. I really enjoyed our conversation at the UAL networking event on Tuesday. I thought I’d follow up to send you a link to the project I was telling you about…
  • It’s also worth connecting with people you meet online to enable you to keep in touch. LinkedIn is a good platform for this as it’s centred around employment, but you could also use other social media platforms.

Networking Online

You can also approach prospective employers, collaborators and clients online. The key is to make sure that your approaches are personalised and clear.

LinkedIn is a great tool for seeking out relevant contacts at companies you’d like to work with. You can request to ‘Connect’ with people easily through LinkedIn but personalise your intro message to increase your chances of getting a response e.g. I saw your exhibition and wanted to connect with you as I am a curator…

The Dots is another online network especially for creative industry professionals. You can build a profile, follow and message other people, showcase your projects and apply for jobs through the platform.

Social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter are good ways to showcase your projects, seek out new work and collaborators, and build a community for your brand. Social media is also a great way to network and approach people in an informal way. Just remember to keep your personal and professional accounts separate (unless your personal life is central to your brand).

If you want to work with a particular company, establish who the most relevant contact is by researching their website or company LinkedIn profile. Once you know who the best contact is you can contact them by email. Draft personalised emails for everyone you make contact with and make sure you have something relevant to say; if you’re looking for work you might want to link to your online portfolio.

Networking - Learning Guide

Useful links:

  • CVs and Portfolios 1

    Interview skills advice

    Get advice on how to prepare for and conduct yourself in job interviews.

  • How to sell your work

    How to sell your work

    Get advice on pricing, invoicing and selling your work as a designer, maker or artist.

  • CO and AT

    Find a job

    Use the Creative Opportunities jobsboard to find freelance opportunities as well as jobs and internships.

  • How to exhibit your work

    How to exhibit your work

    Get advice on how to find exhibition opportunities as a designer, maker or artist and how to prepare for exhibitions.