By Andy Brassington, Course Development Producer, Escape Studios
The Creative Industries, especially VFX, is a small world and, for better or worse, working in the industry can be as much about who you know as what you know. Making contacts and developing your relationships is arguably as important as the quality of your work and your talent. You may be a 3D genius but if you are difficult to work with then you may find yourself being a 3D genius on your own.
Despite being a global activity it is amazing how often you will bump into people that you know who will tell you that "so-and-so are hiring" or that "so-and-so is working at such-and-such" etc.
Contacts are made in so many different ways, ranging from a formal talk over a board room table in a swanky West End studio to informal banter over a couple of pints in a grotty Soho pub. An informal meeting can yield as much fruit as a three hour formal interview. And vice versa. It can be a difficult world to navigate and that’s why it’s important to invest your time and efforts in making contacts that will actually be useful to you, and then develop them.
So who counts as a real contact? Is it having someone on your LinkedIn account? Is it that geezer down the pub that you met the other week who said his mate’s sister’s brother in law knows a guy at ILM? Is it being friends with someone on Facebook? Is it having the phone number of someone at MPC you know will pick up the phone to you? Is it having someone follow you on Twitter? Is it someone that you meet regularly at a social event or group meeting?
Maybe it’s all of these things, and more – but like we have touched on in the previous blogs – there are varying degrees of quality associated with these things.
I have 500+ contacts on LinkedIn – some of them are people I have worked with for years, some are people I have worked with a bit, some are people I have met once or twice and then there are the rest... all perfectly great people I am sure, but really on the periphery of my working life (just as I would be, I am sure, a peripheral dot on their radars too) and who I may have never even met and never once exchanged a meaningful word with either in person or online.
Are these peripheral characters then useless to me? Should I cull my LinkedIn by 95%?
The answer is probably no because it is easy to argue that the more people you add to your social networks then the more chance you have of hearing about a job or picking up a juicy bit of information. It does happen, but I would argue it is the exception rather than the rule.
I think that making contacts in work is similar to developing your own personal relationships. You will have a handful of people who you are extremely close to, people that you see regularly, that know you well and with whom you freely share information. You will (hopefully) have lots and lots of other people that you meet, you like, and you share some information with and catch up with now and again. It’s always great to see them and you make a point of saying "let’s not leave it so long next time". You truly believe what you are saying but the reality is, you only have so much time in the day and its six months before you see them again.
One carefully nurtured relationship with someone can be more powerful than 100 semi random friend requests on LinkedIn, Facebook or whatever.
Equally important you need to make contact with people that are going to value being in contact with you and nine times out of 10 this is going to be people who are at a similar level to you in the industry. If George Lucas accepted your LinkedIn request you may feel a surge of euphoria, but is he really going to be getting in touch that often? If however, the recruiter at ILM accepts you invite then maybe that is the relationship you nurture.
As I am writing this though, I realise that "good" contacts can come from so many different sources. Face-to-face meetings, both formal and informal are still my own personal favourite but I know that social media can be great too. One thing I would say is don’t be too greedy - don’t try to collect names - but instead try to develop relationships. I was at a party after an event recently and the room was full of industry people. I spent a good 40 minutes talking to one guy and that was enough for me. I was really happy to have met him, I wanted to engage fully with him rather than look over his shoulder for my next target. That’s just rude and actually, counterproductive.
Be patient, respectful and focused and if you do this you will find that over time your list of contacts grows and grows and your little black book is full of the right sort of people.