Networking does not come easy to me. I am terrible at making small talk and usually end up very red and flustered or freezing up and going silent. However, as all you Edsters know, networking is key in this industry. (Hint: See Ed's Guide To Networking for tips!) One of my personal goals for this internship is to come out of my shell and not be so nervous talking to people.
The first step in networking is getting used to having informal conversations with people I don’t know. I’ve started at the basic level — making small talk with company representatives as I’m bringing them into desksides (meetings where the company pitches their product and I sit and nod my head) and PR reps at the events I go to. I’ve developed a list of safe questions to ask: How’s the weather outside? Have you been to many other meetings today? Is there a look book? Once I ask a lead-in question, it’s a lot easier to get a conversation flowing.
After becoming more comfortable chatting with people I don’t know, the next step in networking is talking to someone successful in the publishing industry. This week, I had breakfast with the vice-president of a well-known media company. I met her last month through a series of family connections and coincidences, and she generously offered to take me to breakfast at Chelsea Market. I had to wake up obscenely early to get there, but it was worth it.
After I told her about my internship, she explained to me the foundations of her company and introduced me to publishing-related concepts that I hadn’t known about. One topic that she discussed with me in-depth was branding. She showed me her company’s brand, which is really just a statement of varying length that sums up what the company represents. Every employee of the company is familiar with the brand and uses it as reference for every task they do. I’m vaguely familiar with what my magazine’s brand might be, but I wasn’t aware that there was a specific ideal that the magazine strives to be. At my next interview for an internship, I will definitely remember to ask about the brand motto!
My contact also told me the history of her career, from college until now. She didn’t start off with any advantages and really worked her way up to her current position. I left our meeting feeling like I learned a lot more about this industry from the point-of-view of a company other than a print magazine. My contact was so friendly and helpful and I was happy just for the opportunity to talk to her. She went beyond what was necessary and offered to have me come in and shadow her and some of her employees for a day! I will definitely be taking her up on that. I think I’ve found a role model, and hopefully a mentor, for the rest of my career.
Have any Edsters had great opportunities come out of networking? Do any of you have exceptional mentors? I’d love to hear about it!