While I was at Bridal Market, I realized how much I’ve grown as a young professional, and I’ve been thinking about the idea of growth ever since. As much as I would love to say I work full-time in the wedding and lifestyle industries – whether it’s writing, marketing through social media, or planning events – I don’t (yet). But it’s because of the network of people I’ve built that I work in the wedding industry much more consistently than I ever did three years ago. And it’s because of this same network that I will be able to work in this industry full-time as long as I continue to connect, work hard, and never give up. Whether you’re trying to build up your roster of contacts or switch industries entirely, here are my top five tips for building your network of go-to industry pros:
1. Start a blog: Blogging has reinforced my love of writing (and weddings), and it’s also taught me how utilize social media to my benefit. (Hint: If you mention a company or industry professional in a post, send it to them. Twitter works best!) It’s because of the volume of posts that I’ve written, and the fact that I always include a link to my blog when I connect with someone new, that other industry professionals have noticed me. They can sense the knowledge and passion I have for my industry, but they can also see my writing, marketing, and planning skill set at work before we start talking. If you blog consistently, you’ll come to mind when an industry professional has a need they think you can meet. Long story short: starting a blog is singlehandedly the greatest thing I ever did.
2. Brand yourself on social media: Are my photos perfectly styled on Instagram? No, but I try to make them relevant to the things I’m passionate about. I mention companies if I’m wearing a piece I really love, I try to make the subject clear and bright (Pictapgo! is my go-to app to quickly edit photos before I post them), and I caption photos exactly how I would on my blog to continue to showcase my writing style. I include a link to my blog in my bio, share posts on Twitter, and use hashtags. By having a consistent feed and using hashtags, you’ll slowly start to see your network build. Plus, I always click over to someone else’s profile when they’ve liked a photo. That’s how I’ve found and followed people who truly inspire me. Whether it’s someone who is known or just starting out, don’t be afraid to leave a comment either! Writing back and forth is how someone you admire from afar will get to know you. All of the above is applicable for Twitter and Facebook too! PS: Notice that you’re in the same town? Ask to meet for coffee!
3. Send a note: Sending an email to let someone know I love what they’re doing or going further to say I would love to collaborate with them has led to informational interviews, conference calls, and/or working together consistently. Stopping myself from wondering what the person on the other end will think because I’m sending an out-of-the-blue email has been worth it almost every time. I’ve gained contacts, friends, opportunities, and confidence as a result. By reaching out to one person, they’ll likely point you in the direction of a few more. Over time, you’ll have slowly built up a group of go-to people! PS: If someone suggests that you keep in touch, do it.
4. Attend industry events: Networking online is easier in some ways because you’re able to edit yourself as you go. Talking to people in person is definitely completely different! But if you can up your confidence level to the point where you’re able to talk to one person and then another, it’s truly to your benefit. This group likely has the same interests as you, so you should be able to find common ground. Piece together an outfit that you love, bring business cards, always follow up, and say yes to attending even if no sounds more comfortable. When a friend asked if I wanted to go to a dinner two weeks ago with a number of industry people she knew, I said yes even though it meant commuting back into the city for a three hour meet up and getting home late. Everything about that night was completely worth it particularly because I was able to put a face with a name and talk in person.
5. Go to a workshop or conference: Each week it seems like someone else is jumping on the workshop bandwagon, especially in the creative industry. There are so.many.workshops to choose from. Oftentimes they can be really pricey, but if you’re budget allows, try to attend at least one. Ask other people in your industry if they’ve attended a workshop or conference they’ve loved, follow hashtags on Instagram, and see if anyone you admire is hosting a one or the other. My favorite conferences for creative + wedding industry professionals are Making Things Happen (I attended and LOVED it), Pursue: The Workshop, AH Inspired, Creative at Heart, and Engage!. Most conferences will allow you to meet likeminded people in person and join a private group on Facebook where you can connect and ask questions. The right conference is invaluable.
This post is long, y’all! But I sincerely hope it helps at least one of you to start or continue to build your network. The process is long and never ending, but the people I know and have met mean the world to me. It’s because of them that I’ve grown and will continue to do so. Networking – all of it – is so worth it. If you have your own tips and tricks to add, leave a note in the comments! We can make networking a team effort. :)
Stay tied to Carly is Inspired…