The dictionary definition of a network is simply 'a group or system of interconnected people or things’. We are all interconnected to people & things, therefore we all have our own network, and are part of many other networks, whether we choose to utilise them or not. Network-ing is purely developing, building and utilising your existing network. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Considering my career so far has mostly been initiated by recommendations, for someone who considers themselves a non-networker, I have clearly had myself fooled. Without realising, I have, as you will have, built a network that consists of all the people I have met through work, training & social circumstances.
Once I became aware of this I realised I could see my network a bit like this...
My Core: The people who I turn to. Those who inspire me. My relationship with this group revolves around mutual support.
My Inner Direct Network: Those who I could comfortably pick up the phone and call (or fb message) without feeling out of place, but perhaps those I wouldn’t share my deepest darkest secrets with.
My Outer Direct Network: Those I have a less personal connection to and would class more as a professional contact.
My Indirect Network: Those I don't know directly, but who have a connection to contacts within my network.
Everyone has their own unique network, and we all act as a link to interconnect each other. In other words, if we build ourselves a strong enough network it will naturally be able to work for us to link us to new people and opportunities. Our network will promote us in a way that we can not promote ourselves.
So...Once I realised this, my question was - how can we all build and utilise this?
We all know that word of mouth is widely used in the industry, and is the natural way your network can work for you. However, this is a game of luck depending on who is spoken to, and who is on their mind in that moment. I'm sorry to say there have been many times I have been asked if I can recommend someone for a job and someone perfect has slipped my mind. A quick browse through my friends on Facebook shows friend lists can vary from a few hundred to a few thousand, so it is not surprising we can't keep track of all our connections. This means all the precious time we do invest in making new contacts can easily be wasted due to having too many connections! Think of all the links to opportunities that we may have a direct link to, but are missing out on.
Yes, I understand keeping track of professional contacts may be why we have so many Facebook ‘friends’, however let’s not forget this was designed as a social network that is now delivering adverts and using algorithms to adjust our news feeds. Facebook is now cluttered. We have too many friends and we are bombarded with too much information for this to be considered a professional platform.
So this is what I thought…
What if ...everyone in the industry could instantly see everyone who has worked with you, values you, and exactly what they recommend you for?
What if ...the word of mouth network you have built over the years was accessible to everyone beyond your network, and all your connections acted as links to increase your visibility and credibility in the industry?
A few years ago I started developing an online platform that could reflect this word of mouth network, this six degrees of separation, in a way that was catered specifically to our industry (theatre, film, music and tv).
In addition to the opportunities that may present themselves from a word of mouth network, there are other benefits from making your value more visible. It can be incredibly powerful, and create a strong sense of value, when you start working with someone through a word of mouth recommendation. We are always working to create positive and powerful working relationships, and when we start off feeling valued and respected it can give us the space to grow, play and create in a way that is much harder to achieve when we feel we have something to prove. When we step into an environment in which we feel we are being judged there is a tendency to either step back and play it safe, or try to make a stand and prove yourself. This can come across as shy and timid or arrogant. Beginning a working relationship with mutual respect and a sense of value has a huge impact on the development of the work. Also, everyone has something unique to offer, and all working relationships are different. Working through a recommendation is more likely to lead to work with likeminded individuals and therefore create compatible collaborations.
So...Two years ago I launched dokimi- the word of mouth network.
We launched after receiving our funding from a Kickstarter campaign supported by industry professionals. Our purpose is 'To increase access to the arts by empowering talent, and promoting excellence.’ Two of our key values are accessibility and credibility. We honour these values by providing a free profile to anyone who wishes to join, and the option to upgrade to full membership for £1 a month once you are approved by an existing member. As a word of mouth network you do not require any credentials other than approval from an existing member to upgrade to full membership. Our aim is that this will result in a diverse network, with members from varying training and working backgrounds.
If you would like to build and utilise your network start by registering your free profile at www.dokimi.co.uk and create your own word of mouth network….(to be continued)...