Subtitled: Networking for introverts.
By nature, I’m an introvert. I’ve built an entire career around communicating through writing, so that shouldn’t be too much of a shock. That’s not to say I’m antisocial, I’m just better on paper. Now that I’m getting a bit older, I’m much more comfortable with that fact. I don’t try to force conversations any more and I’ve learned to live in that uncomfortable pause. The one that extraverts don’t seem to notice at all.
But, back when I was in college everyone told me the best way to get a job was networking. This caused me great pain because I assumed it meant going to networking events and pressing your business card into some poor bastard’s hand while you wear a suit that’s too small because the last time you wore it was your friend’s wedding two years ago. You both drink watered-down drinks that you had to exchange a ticket to get and stand awkwardly at a small circular table.
Back then, if someone told me that networking was getting lunch one-on-one with someone you hope to work with in the future, and not awkward conversations in a group setting, I would have actually done some networking. And probably gotten a job a lot faster than I did. Honestly, if you can take someone you respect professionally to lunch or buy them happy hour drinks and talk shop for an hour or two, you’re three steps ahead of the game – and you’re networking, introvert-style.
Networking doesn’t have to be a roomful of people in ugly ties and pant suits. For copywriters and others in the creative field it can literally start with, “Hey, you want to go get a beer sometime?” Or an email that simply reads, “I love your work. I’d love to grab lunch with you if you ever have a free day. My treat.” Not many people are going to pass up a free lunch.
And that should be great comfort to all the other introverts out there. When people tell you to network, take it to mean, “Go have a burger with someone you want to be like in five years.”
One note that should be made, don’t overshoot your goal. If you email the president of a Fortune 500 company about having lunch, you probably won’t get a reply. Unless you’re the VP of another Fortune 500 company. Go one step up from where you’re at. If you’re a copywriter who just got out of college, find junior or mid-level copywriters to go to lunch with. If you’re a mid-level writer looking for a new job, find some senior copywriters to talk to.
I’ve been networking with some copywriters in Austin recently, copywriters who are smarter than I was at their age because they understand the importance of networking. Sometimes it’s a copywriter who just moved to Austin, sometimes recent grads. They bring their portfolio, I give whatever advice I can, we talk shop a bit and I tell them what I know of the advertising world in Austin and we part ways. The smart ones follow up with a thank you email, but either way, they’ve gotten their name out there and I know they exist if someone at the agency ever asks, “Anyone know any good copywriters, we’re looking to hire soon.”
Here’s the other secret. I always try to pick up the tab. If for no other reason than I feel initiative should be rewarded. Also, most of the copywriters I meet with are in college or just out of college and a free meal can go a long way.
I guess the moral is, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, unless you’re a copywriter that knows how to network.