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7 Networking Tips for Art and Design Students

7 Networking Tips for Art and Design Students main image

Sponsored by the Royal College of Art (RCA)

Launching a successful career in the art and design sector is certainly a challenge. As well as an infinite supply of talent and energy, you need to network as much as possible, apply for residencies, complete freelance work and stay in touch with your uni friends. Don’t be discouraged though! Hang in there and read on for seven networking tips that could change your life.

1. Attend art and design conferences

You can’t beat the face-to-face element when it comes to networking. Attending art and design conferences is the perfect way to extend your professional network, while keeping pace with trends in your field and finding out about new creative jobs. These events are also a chance to meet representatives of prestigious art schools and discuss opportunities to develop your skills with a postgraduate degree.

For those of you based in and around New York City, the 105th annual CAA Conference at the New York Hilton Midtown on 15-18 February is a chance to speak to RCA professors Jane Pavitt and Anne Toomey about your work, goals, admissions and the Royal College of Art. Contact [email protected] for a one-to-one appointment.

2. Perfect your business card.

Remember: your business card is a chance to boost your profile and showcase your abilities – but above all make sure your contact details are legible and the card standard-sized. Design it yourself or hire a creative service like Moo or Vista Print to do it for you. Keep your cards in a holder so they don’t crumple, and only hand them out at the end of a relevant conversation.

3. Have your elevator pitch at the ready.

When asked to talk about your work, do you ever panic and answer something unintelligible/ trite/ embarrassing? “Erm, I don’t know really, I paint pictures…”

If that sounds like you: stop!

If you’re serious about your art career, you should be able to string together a few sentences about your work that will spark the interest of potential mentors, clients, employers, collaborators, et cetera.

Figure out what makes your art different, of interest to a specific audience, or of value within the art world/wider society. What’s the best feedback you’ve ever received, or most innovative project you’ve been involved in? Where do you see yourself heading, and what impact do you hope to have? What unifying strands run through your work?

Now condense this into a few short bullet points, ready to fire off next time you have 30 seconds to impress.

4. Use social media to showcase your work.

Others are doing it and getting ahead, so why shouldn’t you? Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are fantastic tools for budding artists looking to get found online, showcasetheir talents, build contacts, present themselves in the professional guise they aspire to, or find out about creative job vacancies in real time. Combining online networking with face-to-face meetings will dramatically extend your reach.

5. Leave your introvert side at home.

There’s no point in attending networking events if you just stick close to your friends and shy away from forging new connections. Set yourself a rule of spending at least an hour talking to people you’ve never met before. Introduce yourself to whoever’s nearby, and ask about their work, background and ambitions. Smile, make eye contact, try out that elevator pitch, swap business cards, and then…

6. Follow up.

Building a network is all about following up. Email your new contacts after the event, or send them a message on LinkedIn, referring to a specific talking point that emerged during your chat. Why not share a link to your online portfolio, or let them know about the next event you plan to attend?

Do say: “It was a pleasure meeting you.”

Don’t say: “Got a creative job for me, mate?”

7. Join local networking groups.

Join a community of artists in your city to share ideas and stay up to date on creative job opportunities, trends and news. This is also a great way to receive regular constructive feedback on your work, to ensure that you keep developing long after graduation.

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