As a blogger and designer, I'm very comfortable working alone, but that's not generally how my best work, or even my best ideas, come about. That's why it can be especially important to push myself outside of the happy hermit walls that surround my comfort zone to reach out to other creatives for networking and collaborations.
If these things don't exactly come naturally to you, I hear you. Networking can feel forced, awkward, and uncomfortable. And it's something on which I'm constantly working and trying to improve. That's why I'm sharing these tips that, as an introvert, I've found especially helpful for whenever you are trying to make connections and expand your creative team.
Think Outside of Yourself
When networking, the thought process often revolves around filling a personal need and bringing more people into your squad. However, if want to expand your reach, you may want to consider the opposite perspective and look to join someone else's team instead. If you can check your creative ego at the door, you will likely gain new ideas, new methods, and new connections that you never would have otherwise. The ego isolates, but humility connects.
Similarly, thinking outside of yourself can help to ease nerves. When my nephew was nervous about starting kindergarten and having to make friends at a new school, my mom gave him some great advice that stuck with me. She told him to look for someone else that seemed nervous and focus on being nice to them and helping them feel better. That same advice can be applied to adulthood nerves as well. If you've been wanting to pitch an idea to an editor or reach out to someone you admire about collaborating, don't focus on your own nerves or perceived inadequacies. Think about the potential value you can offer to them. Instead of asking for a favor, outline what you can bring to the table and how you can make their life easier. Consider the notion that you might be exactly what they're looking for to fill a need.
Watch for Bright Eyes
Having talent is great but collaborating with other talented people is even better. Invest your time into finding and hanging out with people whose talents, interests, and goals are in line with your own. They will not only be able to help you when you need inspiration and advice, but will hopefully motivate you to push harder and go further than you would solo.
Furthermore, you know that thing that you're so passionate about? If you see someone else talk about it with the same fire in their eyes, invest your time into this person. Sharing a vision and drive regarding the same topic is a rare bond that should be held onto tightly. If you aren't sure where to connect with others of similar interests, consider online groups, blogger meetups, creative courses and other places that driven and brilliant people like yourself will likely be. And never underestimate the power of volunteering. Some of my most valuable connections have been made through volunteering for someone I admire and giving it my all. It gives them a chance to see your eyes get bright about their work and solidifies you as a strong asset to the team.
Find Your Yang
Keep an open mind when it comes to connecting with different types of people because it is oftentimes a personality that is opposite to your own that will make for a very productive pairing. If you're a visionary, team up with a practical doer. If you prefer to work behind-the-scenes, team up with someone outgoing with PR savvy.
Take advantage of what you can learn from someone who works differently than you. It may take effort to understand different communication and work styles, but it will pay off in the end. And similarly, try to bring your own unique vision and experiences to the partnership. Whatever makes you "weird" is often one of your most valuable qualities. Cookie-cutter people seldom change the world.
Do you have any tips for growing your personal network? Let's talk making connections in the comments!