Keep your clothes on! That isn’t the type of exposure we are talking about today...
Being seen and heard is a difficult task in today’s fast paced world. But it isn’t impossible. You have to physically get out there and be around people, listen to others, and engage in conversation.
In our recent episode with the VP of digital design at MTV, Rich Tu, we are reminded of how important it is to create lasting connections with others and build a network of people. Life is full of surprises, and we never know where and when an opportunity may present itself. Being prepared is only half the battle. It can be confusing starting out when we do not have a reputation. Whether you have just graduated from college, or you are a seasoned professional looking to expand your reach, exposure is the special ingredient you need more of in your career.
Really, we can never have too many people knowing who we are and what we do for a living. It doesn’t have to be difficult to gain more of it either. In fact, it can be a fun experience if you are a social person.
Too many people try to market themselves over the internet. They are dazzled by the large numbers of followers and “friends” they receive on social media networks. The audience might be bigger on Instagram or Twitter, but the bonds are shallow. Online acquaintances do not hold the same importance as a relationship fostered “in real life.” Nothing beats a personal conversation face to face.
On the web, there are thousands of people doing work similar to yours. Those aren’t great odds when you consider that you are competing for the attention of thousands more. When we step outside of our homes and involve ourselves in the local community, our competition on the internet becomes distant strangers. We immediately have the home-court advantage as a personal, human being.
People talk, and that’s good news for us. Word of mouth is such a powerful form of advertisement that many businesses rely on it. People trust the honest opinion of others over marketing ads, fancy websites, and professionally written resumes.
In fact, most large companies don’t waste their time on job boards or online social platforms. Candidates come to them “through the grapevine.” People attached to this network don’t have a special sign on their forehead. You will never know who you are sitting next to until you start a conversation.
Some social skills are required for this part. But don’t worry, it’s easy once you get the hang of it. The goal is to be memorable to people in a good way.
Let’s go over a few tips to give your conversations a boost in professionalism and charisma.
Q&A because talking happens...
Write down a list of conversation starters, ice breakers, or questions to pose when silence strikes. If you have never done this before, it’s best to do research.
Memorize the list and use them as needed.
People love talking about themselves and rarely enjoy listening unless they are engaged. Immediately, set your conversation in an enjoyable direction by putting them in a good mood. Ask questions that lead to positive answers. Instead of asking, “How was your week?” replace it with, “What was the highlight of your week?” When they speak about a pleasant moment or thought, they will associate you with that emotion.
Ask for feedback. Especially when you are in the presence of someone who is more experienced or authoritative than you, it’s incredibly helpful. When Rich Tu received feedback from legend Steven Heller of the New York Times, he felt that his “earnestness and willingness to put in the work” was what landed him the job.
Now that they are authentically interested, they will begin to ask you questions and listen closely.
Be prepared with the answers before anyone asks. There is nothing worse than a personal question that trips up your tongue. Your mind goes blank, and random words tumble out of your mouth.
Rehearse an engaging, complex answer to a few simple but important questions:
- “What do you do?”
- “Where did you study?”
- “What are your goals for the future?”
These are inquiries that come up frequently in conversation. By practicing your answers ahead of time, you’ll demonstrate confidence.
This may seem unnecessary, but most people find it difficult to define and discuss themselves in detail without careful consideration and a preconceived script.
The Calling Card
Cards, magnets, pens...the options are endless. When you make a good connection with someone, it’s important to end the conversation by extending an offer to reconnect at a later date. Whether you are socializing at an event, in a coffee shop, or on the train, carrying your information in an easily dispensable form is a smart choice. It only takes a few seconds to give them your card or social media profile, and it’s their choice to connect or forget about it.
Now that you are ready to socialize, here are a few ways to begin rubbing elbows in no time:
Look for networking events or groups in your area
Strike up a conversation with others in the creative industry. Find out where they hang out with designers and artists like you.
But don’t stop there.
Speak to privately owned businesses in your area and ask if they are involved in a business network. Only connecting with other creatives in your profession will not always help you to find work. That’s your competition! They want those jobs too.
What you need are people who work in an industry that compliments your own. They may need people with your skillset or have clientele in search of talented individuals like you.
Trading referrals is a great way to extend your reach. That’s why networks like BNI host weekly meetups with local business men and women from a variety of work fields. Each week, one member formally presents the services or products they offer while the rest of the group casually socialize.
One-time networking events also give small businesses and entrepreneurs the opportunity to discuss their work and make a memorable impression on their peers. But these shouldn’t be a replacement for a long term community that facilitates lasting relationships.
If you are still struggling to find local meetings, check out a few websites. LinkedIn and Facebook allow you to search or create local groups and events. You should already be on these social media platforms. If you aren’t using them for local networking, now is the time to start.
MeetUp.com has a business referral networking group in the United States with over 3 million members. Those members are divided by location. Take a look and see if one is near you.
Host a meetup for other creatives
If you can’t find a group, create one. The host of an event will always be the center of attention.
Hosting meetups for other creatives or business owners is a sure way to be noticed by your peers. Even when they aren’t talking directly to you, they will likely be talking about you to each other. Your name will be buzzing through the crowd.
When you are in charge, it’s up to you to set the standards. Will it be a full-scale party or casual lunch? It doesn’t have to cost you a penny. If people are required to pay for their own meals, it’s important to mention it in the meetup description or invitation.
Volunteer in local events
Volunteering is not the same as working for free. Find local events and get involved in your community. Ask about being an exhibitor, speaker, or a participant in the crowd. Any opportunity to mingle with others is a great way to gain exposure and network.
If you aren’t sure where to start, check these out:
Contact each one by phone or email about the potential chance to share your talent and speak to people about what you do. If those options don’t offer you a shot to strut your stuff, don’t fret. Look for events that suit your style and attend them. Strike up a conversation with the people involved. Become a friendly, familiar face and then try again in the next few months.
Teach and show moral support
A classroom is not required to lend a helping hand to a struggling student or rising talent. Even if you do not consider yourself an expert, there are people who don’t know half of what you do.
Besides sharing information about your life story and career, it’s advantageous to share your knowledge and experience. What mistakes did you make that others could avoid? People who are considering a career in your field will appreciate the additional intel and remember you for years to come. Your guidance and encouragement can influence their future.
Everyone recalls the people in their life that helped them to achieve their dreams. This is an investment that can offer you notoriety and respect from students, fellow teachers, and parents. Your name will be consistently spoken and referred to in casual conversation.
Gaining exposure isn’t about doing work without a financial reward. It’s about connecting with people and sharing your experience. It’s about never giving up, pushing forward, and remaining optimistic in the face of adversity. Opportunity will not knock on your door unless people know that you exist and where to find you.
Networking has a stigma, being associated with difficult work and boring conversations, but it doesn’t have to be. We are creatives! We can be inventive with our approach. Exposure should be a natural and fun process. As we grow and develop our profession, the people we meet along the way become a part of our tribe. We are all passionate about our careers and can help each other to achieve our goals and explore new heights.
Exposure is about showing the world what you are made of, one person at a time. No matter where life may lead you, be yourself, show pride in your work, and put your best foot forward. And remember to always pay it forward.
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