Not much has more potential to boost your career in publishing than networking, but it’s very common to be scared of it and to do almost anything to avoid actually doing it.
When I was looking for a job in publishing I must have heard three or four times a week that I was supposed to go out there and network. However, it was never clear to me exactly where I was supposed to go or what I supposed to be doing once I’d found these semi-mythical people. I suppose I was your typical English graduate, as the idea of talking to people I didn’t know filled me with horror. Even worse was the idea of talking about myself. The urge to take the free drinks and cheese and run is a feeling I can really relate to.
And yet…networking is too important to ignore. I know that you already know that most publishing jobs are not advertised. Recruitment in the creative industries, especially for entry-level roles where candidates’ qualifications are likely to be very similar, is often based on how well people think that they can work with you. It will help to build a network of people that can vouch for you and tip you off when the next job is coming up, and to consistently prove yourself to be engaged and likeable by showing up to networking events.
The Society of Young Publishers (SYP) is an obvious networking choice for young publishers and those trying to get into publishing and I’m not just saying that because I’m chair (I am). We host lots of different types of events from socials to picnics to pub quizzes, so that (we hope) we can provide something for all our members. At all of our events we try to speak to people who are on their own and we all wear deeply embarrassing SYP badges. So come and speak to us – we’d love to meet you! Personally, I love the SYP because it gives me a reason to say that I’m networking when I’m hanging out with my friends.
Last month we hosted an evening with Justine Solomons and Leena Norms called ‘How to Network’. Justine is the founder of Byte the Book and a total networking pro. She was a fantastic motivator and got the crowd talking to each other in a way I’d never seen at an SYP event before. These were some of the messages that I took home from Justine:
Work the room – Justine made it a point to speak to everyone at the event for a few moments and to give out her business card so that people had a way to remember and to contact her. The temptation to stay with your friends and colleagues is really strong but she showed how you don’t need to be scared of reaching out to people. Which brings me to my next point…
Don’t be scared – most people are nervous and will be grateful that somebody is talking to them. If you find that the conversation isn’t going anywhere it’s perfectly okay to excuse yourself and move on.
Try and help people – try and think of ways that you can help people, whether it’s by sharing experiences or introducing them to someone else. This gives you something to talk about and means that they are more likely to do you a favour when the time comes.
Follow up – Justine made me realise that networking is useless if you don’t follow up with someone soon after you meet. That’s what the business card is for. Drop someone an email and see if you can meet for coffee.
Leena, the inspiring publicity manager at Icon Books and BookTuber at JustKissMyFrog encouraged us to do something that grabs the attention of people, whether it’s contributing to a blog or hosting your own review series on YouTube. She made the brilliant observation that people who lead interesting and creative lives have impressive CVs.
So be interesting to, and interested in, who you are speaking to, be persistent (but understand that people are busy) and keep practising the skill of networking and you’ll be fine.
If you would like to meet somebody before an SYP event email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on twitter at @MollyBloom1989. Good luck!
Anna Cunnane is the chair of the Society of Young Publishers and export manager at Kyle Books.