Written by: Emma Woodward
Friday, 21 January 2022
Networking is an essential part of most careers. It’s especially important in the creative industries, where opportunities often don’t arise from what you know, but who you know.
But how do you go about networking in the creative industries when you’re an introvert? Meeting new people, attending industry events, and most other networking scenarios seem to be set up to suit extroverts.
Susan Cain is the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts. These books examine the ways in which the qualities of introverts are often undervalued and overlooked within systems that seem to place greater value on the qualities associated with extroversion.
Cain neatly sums up what it feels like to be an introvert on her website.
“I prefer listening to talking, reading to socializing, and cozy chats to group settings. I like to think before I speak (softly),” Cain writes.
The good news is that none of these qualities should stop introverts from networking. In fact, in the right circumstances, they may even make you better at it.
We’re passionate about teaching our students networking skills, because we have seen how much success our graduates can have when they’re connected to others within the creative industries. You might think that the world of film, or games, or animation is a closed off world, but the reality is that one of the most effective ways to network is simply to get involved. By studying, developing your skills, and producing your own creative projects, you are already taking those first essential steps to immerse yourself in the creative world and to build networks.
Tamara Popper is AIT’s industry and internship liaison manager, and she has seen firsthand the opportunities that open up to students who develop networks through the internship program.
“At the very least, at the end of the internship, students have a great reference, something to put on their CV, and they’ve started to develop their network. This industry works on word of mouth. It’s one of those ‘who you know’ industries.” Popper says.
When networking, it’s important to understand your strengths. You might think that being an introvert will hold you back, but the truth is you have a number of strengths and advantages that might surprise you.
Do you find it hard to talk to people? Then you might be a great listener! As you look at the different communication styles of introverts and extroverts, you might find that your strengths and weaknesses are actually two sides of the same coin. You could find that your advanced listening skills are appreciated as you give others an opportunity to talk.
At some stage, however, you will have to speak up. One-sided conversations usually don’t develop relationships. But if you find it hard to talk about yourself, then why not talk about your projects and passions instead. If your goal is to network with other people in the creative industries then you probably have a lot in common, and a lot to talk about. So take the pressure off yourself. Networking isn’t really about selling yourself, but about finding common ground and developing relationships.
Networking also doesn’t have to revolve around large events, or meeting and talking to a lot of new people in a short timeframe. You can leverage the forms of networking that work best for you. Try using a communication method that allows you to compose your thoughts and consider your replies, such as email rather than a phone call. Or work on your LinkedIn profile and connect with people there before tackling those face to face meetings.
“Millions of mentors and mentees have signed up to give and get career advice on LinkedIn,” said LinkedIn Learning’s customer success manager Sherry Wu, at a recent industry talk with students.
Wu encouraged students to explore LinkedIn’s possibilities. “This is a really good time in your career, whether you are about to graduate, or whether you are in your first year of university… to build your network, and advance in your career, by building your personal branding on LinkedIn.”
For introverts, networking in the traditional sense often seems like a recipe for failure. But if you want to meet with new people, then you can always arrange for a one-on-one chat, rather than facing a room full of strangers.
Finding people to collaborate with will be another great way to build your network. With a shared goal and a project to work on, it’s much easier to get to know someone and start to build that relationship.
We all have our different strengths and weaknesses. One of the main differences between introverts and extroverts is that extroverts draw energy from being around others in lively situations, whereas introverts prefer to rest and recharge either in solitude or in a relaxed setting with people they know well.
It’s alright to anticipate that a big event will exhaust you or make you nervous. You can acknowledge this and still look forward to attending. Just think about some things that will help you to calm your nerves beforehand and recharge your batteries afterwards. Can you make time for something relaxing that you enjoy (like a yoga session or a long walk) in the morning or right before the dreaded event begins? Can you plan a nice wind-down activity for later?
As you step out into the creative industries and start filling your days with work commitments, learning opportunities, and more, you will gradually find a routine that suits your introverted tendencies. You’ll find quiet spaces for work, and ways to lessen the stress of the things that you naturally find difficult.
As you develop your networking skills, the goal isn’t to transform yourself from an introvert into an extrovert. Being introverted isn’t a character flaw, and you can find a way to network and build relationships with others in the creative industries without changing who you are.
As you think about what you want to achieve in the industry, you might want to think about the things that you want to work on most. Do you want to become a confident speaker? Or will you leave the public speaking to others and focus your energy on building quality relationships with others?
Decide what’s important to you and then work on developing the skills that you will need. Speaking confidently, befriending strangers, and finding new people to collaborate with are all skills that you can practice and master.
Here at AIT, we help students to develop essential soft skills such as networking. Just as you can learn the technical skills that you need to bring your creative visions to life, you can also learn to network in the creative industries.
One of the earliest ways that you’ll start to learn these skills is by working collaboratively with others in your class. You might think that you’re just working on group projects, but you’re actually building a network with the next generation of creative professionals. You’re also learning how to work with others in an environment that’s very like a working studio.
One of the reasons Tamara Popper believes that AIT internships are so important, is the opportunity they give to students to collaborate with others.
“These are not fine artists, working on one oil painting,” Popper says.
Whether you become an animator, games developer, cinematographer, or any other type of creative professional, you will be working with others. You might think of or refine your best ideas in solitude and quiet, but unlike a fine artist who works alone throughout the entire process, you will need to work with others to bring those ideas to life and share them with the world.
Decide what skills you would like to work on so that you can build relationships with others, and you’ll find that there’s no reason being an introvert should hold you back from networking in the creative industries.
If you’d like to find out more about the courses offered at AIT, or the internships and networking opportunities that we offer, then you can attend one of our industry events, contact a course advisor, or download a course guide today.