Page last updated at: Thu, 26 May 2011 15:12 PM BST Printable version

The power of the little black book

by Ellinor Thunberg

Little black book.

Connections are crucial for landing your first job as a graduate. In fact, 80 per cent of the emerging UAL graduates in 2008 found their opportunities through networking and work experience contacts, according to the UAL careers department.

“The majority of opportunities in the creative industries are not always advertised. People are working freelance or setting up their own business,” says Hanna Clements, a careers guidance specialist at UAL. “Networking is key to developing contacts and widening your understanding of your industry area.”

UAL Creative Careers regularly run networking workshops and events where students and graduates can practice their skills.

Approach people on industry talks and events

Networking expert and former BBC radio producer Carole Stone recommends attending as many events as possible and to make the most out of approaching speakers afterwards. “Don’t leave the room without having spoken to at least two new people and exchanging contact details,” she says. “Then remember to drop them a line within the next day or two explaining what you are looking for and saying you hope to keep in touch.”

But walking up to people you don’t know can be intimidating, especially as a young student or professional. But Stone says there’s nothing to fear: “A snub is much better than not trying. It’s often the things you don’t do in life that you regret more than those you do. Don’t worry about failure – it is a way of learning.”

Social networking is an option

Building your contact book in the real world is not the only option though. Facebook and Twitter are already part of most students’ everyday life, and using social media is a great way to create a personal brand online.

“Having a professional presence online is now an essential part of your career tool set,” says Richard George at LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional networking website.

They have 100 million members and last year two billion people searches were performed. Having an up-to-date profile with your CV and photo is therefore a good way to make employers aware that you’re out there.

George also mentions that joining relevant groups might help you gain insights and tips from peers, many of whom may be in a similar position themselves.

Kick-start your career 

Most students would probably agree that networking is a great tool – but what if you’re a graduate who urgently needs to kick-start your future? Carole Stone recommends finding your own focus and following up with research to find a workplace that suits you. “Drop a note to the appropriate person, telling them your area of interest in their work, and ask if there is a chance that you can come to see them for a coffee,” she says.

For more on how to jump-start your career visit:

arts.ac.uk/careers.htm or creativenetworking.wordpress.com


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