Networking Then, New Responses Now
By Brett McKenzie on May 08, 2020
Bonus questions — and answers — from a very popular Creative Month panel
The One Club for Creativity's Creative Month is off to a fantastic start, and the energy and excitement were on full display with the month's very first panel — Networking Now: Moving from Panic to Planning. It was very apropos to be using Zoom as a platform, as Lisa Balser, Founder of New & Improved; Ronnie Dickerson, Chief Diversity Officer at Publicis; and Natalie Kim, Founder of We Are Next all discussed brand new ways of networking in an industry in the middle of some major changes.
As great as the session was — and if you missed it, you can watch it here — there was no way for our panelists to get through all of the questions from the hundreds of viewers who tuned in live. To remedy this, Lisa, Ronnie, and Natalie graciously volunteered to comb through some of the questions and give their replies here!
What is the next step after reaching out to a person in the industry? I followed up with a person via e-mail to say thank you for his time, but never received any response. I’d love to continue building relationships with this person, but do not want to force the connection.
Lisa: It’s hard to give specific advice without having the full context of the situation, but generally, I’d say don’t take it personally — remember that people are busy and get so many emails, it can be overwhelming — people don’t always have time to answer. That said, if you connected on a topic, after a period of time you can follow up with something relevant that references your conversation and ask if it’s okay to stay in touch.
What about the hallmark of networking — social gatherings? Unlike an in-person meet-up or a cocktail party, where you can move about the room, I find Zoom networking events a little awkward. Any tips?
Lisa: As an attendee, you can come up with a great icebreaker and jump in! Also, try to connect with people in the chat, and follow up with them via LinkedIn after the event. Mention that you were both attendees. If something they said particularly resonated with you, that’s a great jumping-off point for further conversation.
The best Zoom networking events I’ve attended have had purposeful hosts who provided questions for participants to answer as an icebreaker or jumping-off point — bonus if they’re fun questions that allow you to share more than job titles! Also, inviting everyone to speak briefly, and utilizing smaller breakout rooms helps facilitate discussion and connection.
As Lisa said, sometimes it happens at events that you exclude yourself not on purpose. How can I break out of that? It feels so weird and forced to just go randomly up to a person and be like “Hey who are you where do you work?”
Lisa: It can definitely be awkward and uncomfortable, but remember that most of us feel that way. I was at an event earlier this year (pre-COVID), and someone went around asking people what they hoped to get out of the event. It served as an engaging icebreaker that naturally led to the whole, “What do you do, where do you work?” question, but wasn’t dull, and it showcased the person’s personality. Also, be generous — invite people into your conversations when you see someone alone or who is clearly doing “the hover” and wanting to connect.
What happens if you feel like you’re “too senior” i.e. 20+ yrs experience. How do you network and not feel like you’re written off right off the bat?
Lisa: This is a tough one — and a bigger discussion. Ageism is real. But experience is valuable, especially now. And you’ve likely built a network up over the years. I’d reach out to folks you’ve had good relationships with to reconnect and check in, especially if it’s been a while. And don’t be afraid to ask a connection to make an intro to someone in their network you’d like to meet. A personal introduction is always better than a cold call, and the mutual connection can set up common ground to help kick off the conversation.
I’m a recent grad and MAIP 2020 and my internship I was banking on for a job is canceled. How do I move forward?
Natalie: First off, be sure to include that internship on your resume with a note that it was canceled due to COVID-19. You were chosen by an agency and that means something, even if it wasn’t able to happen.
If you absolutely have to start working right away for financial reasons, look to the industries that are thriving because we’re all stuck at home: streaming services, social media, gaming, and e-sports, Amazon, collaboration software. There is a way to build relevant skills in any job or industry you take on, so don’t feel like you have to find an advertising role when few are hiring.
If you have some cushion, use this time to create your own opportunities. Volunteer your skills, freelance, create spec work, work on that side project you always wished you had time for, or band together with others to create something new. Use this time to build your network so that when hiring picks up again, you’ll have an armful of people who can help you get where you want to go.
“Use this time to build your network so that when hiring picks up again, you’ll have an armful of people who can help you get where you want to go.”
If I'm just a junior in college, what can I offer to the person in the industry that I would like to connect and talk to?
Ronnie: A great idea is to start to follow and get to know people in the industry and their interests, or what they are working on in order to establish common ground. Industry professionals share so much on social platforms, which makes it easy to get to know what’s top of mind for them at any given moment. Beyond that, many people will simply be open to connecting and chatting about their career path, or willing to share a helpful tip. A thoughtful yet easy to execute way to connect is to simply reach out to people in the industry you’d like to connect with and ask if they’d be open to answering one simple question for you. I’d consider reaching out to people with varying levels of experience especially those who have recently joined the industry or folks who are 3-5 years ahead of you. They have a wealth of information to share!
How do you stay connected with a recruiter besides asking more about the company/what they’ve been up to during COVID-19?
Natalie: Update the recruiter on what you’ve been doing, especially when you have a new piece of work to show for it (from all those opportunities you’ve created for yourself). Finding ways to add value is also a great way to stay connected with a recruiter. Keep tabs on news on the company, its clients, and relevant industry verticals, and look for opportunities to share your POV. Recruiters are busy even in the best of times, so write emails that don’t need a response. They’ll appreciate that your "touch base" email didn’t require a lot of time on their end.
When applying to jobs, especially on LinkedIn, it feels like I'm just sending applications into an abyss. What are the next steps you should take with these apps to make sure they get noticed?
Natalie: If applying to jobs via LinkedIn or some other online portal is the “front door,” I recommend trying the “back door”. Find people who work on the team you’re trying to join, and reach out to learn more about them. You’re not immediately contacting them to apply for the job — you can mention that you applied to the position, but your ask is to hear about their experience working at the company (which is a smart thing to do to get a better sense of what it’d be like to work there). Establishing a connection and having a conversation allows that person to get to know you and potentially recommend you, meaning you’ve gone from being an anonymous applicant to an internal referral.
“Establishing a connection and having a conversation allows that person to get to know you and potentially recommend you, meaning you’ve gone from being an anonymous applicant to an internal referral.”
What's the main thing you appreciate in a person who is trying to network with you?
Ronnie: I believe most people appreciate others who show up authentically, and simply remember there are humans on both sides of the networking exchange. I do think many times people get sidetracked by a person’s title or level of experience and see them only through that lens. I always appreciate people who show up transparently (there is nothing wrong with sharing you’re simply interested in building your network and are reaching out to people you’d love to follow or learn from along the way).
Is there a platform you recommend where I can network from home, besides LinkedIn?
Lisa: Check out industry organizations that typically have IRL events and see what they’re offering online. Most are doing something virtually now and you can easily connect with attendees. The One Club, local Ad Clubs, and organizations with local and global chapters like SheSays, and CC:DC (Cannes Diversity Collective) are a few.
What remote networking lessons or tools do you hope will remain once we can all connect in person again?
Lisa: Right now I think people are extra generous and kind, and I hope that sticks! I also hope that, when we get back to a more "normal" normal, people will have a better understanding of the importance of true diversity and inclusion efforts and impact.
Bonus: Here are some online resources that Lisa, Ronnie and Natalie feel you might find useful.
Coffee At A Distance, We Are Next’s mentorship program
MADE Summer Web Series — now open to the public
Creative Circus Friday Forums -— now open to the public
Creative Month is a four-week online celebration of everything that The One Club for Creativity stands for. Creative Month takes place