Networking is a vital part of any professional industry and is a necessary evil in an industry like the games industry where your connections often provide more opportunities than your past work.
It isn’t favoritism, I’m not saying that, but it is helpful to have someone fighting for you, giving you chances that you might not have normally without this person on your side. You can be this person for others too, which is its own kind of reward. To get these kinds of opportunities, you have to network. For some of you reading this, you’ve been doing it all wrong until now. I certainly was.
The Shotgun Approach to Networking
When you’re just getting started, it’s easy to think that you need a shotgun approach. Get as many people as you can to know you, that way you have as many people on your side as possible. That’s the wrong way to go about it. It might work at first, if just to show to people that you aren’t a total weirdo, but at a certain point, you haven’t really done anything. You’ve crafted a bunch of surface level relationships with people who might be able to help you at a certain point when you should be crafting real relationships with people who will want to help you.
People often assume that networking is fake, that the intentions behind it aren’t genuine. Be genuine. Don’t use networking as a tool, use it as an opportunity to make real friends. That’s the most important line in this entire piece, so read it again.
Be genuine. Don’t use networking as a tool, use it as an opportunity to make real friends.
If it’s your first time going to an event like PAX or E3, it can be hard to resist the temptation of giving out your business card to everyone you meet. You want them to remember you, right? It’s mostly pointless if you didn’t have a genuine connection with them. I’ve kept nearly every business card I’ve been given over the last eight years and I just threw every one of them away without much worry. I don’t need to utilize those business cards for a cold email that the person will likely ignore anyway, I can use a genuine connection to create that introduction.
Don’t get me wrong, keep some business cards on you (and make sure they’re nice, it says a lot). They can be extremely helpful in putting a name to your face if you aren’t 100% confident in the connection, but you should rely on other forms of communication if you think you’ve made a genuine connection. Swap info with the person via text or email. It’s much more personal and creates a chain that you can easily follow up on. Read the situation though. If they aren’t feeling it, don’t be a weirdo and ask for their phone number.
Once you gain some friends in the industry, focus on cultivating those relationships. Instead of going to all the major parties, have dinner with friends. You’ll find that making the time for that is infinitely more rewarding than struggling to hear someone in a club. Most importantly, there’s food.
Trust me, this is the best way to form meaningful relationships. You can go out drinking and partying after if you wish, but it gives you time to slow down and have meaningful conversation with friends. Now, you don’t need that business card for a cold email. You can have someone make the introduction for you, almost guaranteeing a response.
This is a very unique way of networking. Most people network because they want something, whether that’s a client’s business, a partnership opportunity, or even a new job. They don’t network with the intention of creating real, lasting friendships, even if those friendships only extend to work relationships. This is important. In doing this, you’ll find that putting your motives second results in a larger gain. It isn’t just about what you can get, but what you can do for someone else.
It might not happen right away, but having the opportunity to help someone else that you genuinely care about, that’s worth more in the long-term than you’d ever get out of throwing your business card at a room and seeing who picks it up.
The Main Takeaway
If you get anything out of this, let it be the importance of being genuine. People can see through fakeness and ploys. Be genuine and craft some real relationships where the focus is people and what you can do for them, rather than what you need done for you. Be selfless and you’ll see a noticeable change in how receptive people are to you. People will want to talk to you more, knowing that you aren’t trying to get anything out of them. You have an opportunity to be the person that people remember for his/her kindness, loyalty, selflessness, and friendship. Take that opportunity and see what return comes from it.