The Value of Networking
When I was a kid, there was no collaboration; it’s you with a camera bossing your friends around. But as an adult, filmmaking is all about appreciating the talents of the people you surround yourself with and knowing you could never have made any of these films by yourself.
— Steven Spielberg
I’ve been working in tech since I was 16 years old. Thinking back on the years since, I owe a lot of the work, stability, and success I’ve had to networking. A large part of my past has been building relationships with interesting and influential people.
It’s easy to say that networking is something everyone should do. Networking can be a significant investment. Going to events and meet-ups requires an investment in not only your hard-earned cash, but also in your time and emotional effort. Venturing out and meeting new people can also be super stressful and have you coping with anxiety.
With so much else in life, I believe meeting people is something that takes time and practice. You have to get over the feelings that you aren’t interesting or good enough or that nobody will want to talk to you. There’s some social behaviour to learn as well. For some people, it’s learning how to talk less and listen more. All of this develops over time.
Being present at the conferences and meet-ups within your community is, hands-down, one of the best investments you will ever make in your career. This activity is something too huge to pass up. Don’t forget you can also write it off as a business expense!
How can meet-ups and other events make such a difference in your career? What follows is a list of my five biggest reasons.
1. Build Friendships
You can’t place a value on having friends in the business who you can trust with no strings attached.
Friends both in and outside of your line of work can help keep you motivated. They are a sounding board for ideas. They can listen to you when you’re having a bad day. Knowing people in different cities is also nice for when you’re traveling and looking for someone to grab some food or coffee with.
2. Find Opportunities
Opportunities presented through networking can make your career. Joint ventures, client leads, partnerships, speaking and writing gigs are just a small sample. The best opportunities are discovered in-person.
It only takes a single new client or contract to make the investment in a conference pass worthwhile.
Everyone loves to give advice on the internet (case in point, this post). However, advice you can give to, and receive from, your network is stuff that Google can’t provide. The better your network, the more knowledge you can tap into. Your contacts can help you make the right choices and keep you out of trouble.
Whether you are self-employed or working with a great team, sometimes you just need some help. Your network can help you with promotions and help with building a community. They can help you share links and make introductions. They can also help you get out of a hole.
5. Positive Influences
Working at Pixar you learn the really honest, hard way of making a great movie, which is to surround yourself with people who are much smarter than you, much more talented than you, and incite constructive criticism; you’ll get a much better movie out of it.
— Andrew Stanton, Pixar
Surround yourself with the right people, those who are smarter than you, those with the right attitudes, habits, and world view. If you do this, you’ll notice a massive change in your own life and career.
It’s not easy
Entering a room filled with people you don’t know can make your palms sweat, to say the least. Luckily, there are some ways to help with that.
Find smaller events that plan social activities
NSNorth has been built to be more than just a way to hear from amazing speakers. We feel the true value comes from the activities that are run throughout the event that help you meet more people and foster bigger and better connections and friendships.
Another aspect of NSNorth that contributes a tremendous amount to building connections is the size of the event. As in previous years, we are capping the event at 150 attendees. We find this is a perfect number that doesn’t give you the feeling of being “lost in the mix”. If you keep moving between the tables and around the room throughout the three days, you can easily run into everyone there!
We build NSNorth to make you feel included and safe. It’s how we would want to feel as an attendee, so we work tirelessly to ensure this is your experience as well.
Twitter can help
Twitter is an excellent way to introduce yourself to attendees and speakers before the event starts. You can share your own experiences and what you’re working on. Meeting someone in person who you have already conversed with on Twitter can also be a lot easier.
Bring a friend
Ask a colleague or friend to travel with you and even join you at the event. That way there is still a familiar face around, and you don’t have to worry about going it alone.
Don’t feel pressured
If you just want to attend an event to hear the speakers or learn more about the subject-matter, that’s absolutely fine. I’ve gone to an event with no expectations or concern about “fitting in”. If you do end up running into someone and have a nice conversation, then all the better.
I hope this post has been of some use to you. Meeting people can come a lot easier to some compared to others. When you’re just starting out, it can be even harder.
There are many wonderful aspects about the Apple developer/designer community. It includes smart and wonderful people who are incredibly supportive, empowering, and accepting. I hear this time and time again from others, and I witness it every year at NSNorth; it’s one of the most inclusive communities out there.
I look forward to meeting you in Toronto at the end of April!
— Dan Byers, Co-organizer, NSNorth