I’m sure you’ve heard it before. You’ve got to network. You’ve got to get involved. You’ve got to meet the right people. Well, here it is again. It’s really important to network. And get involved. And meet the right people. Because your skill will only take you so far, knowing the right people will take you farther.
This might seem intimidating at first, especially if you’re a bit of an introvert. But you can be the most amazing engineer on the planet, and if nobody knows it, you will continue to be the most amazing engineer on the planet without any leads. This is not to be confused with shouting from the rooftops that you are the bomb, this is about going out and making healthy human connections (which let’s face it a lot of times these days this is virtual).
When I first started, I would go up and introduce myself to ANYONE – and I was kind of shy, so that took a lot. I would think of any, and I mean any question – even one I knew the answer to, and I would go ask. If I went to a concert, I would locate the sound person. And if there was a free moment, I would go ask my question. If I loved an album, I checked the credits, found the engineer, and wrote them on Myspace (I just dated myself with that but anyway).
But the biggest and most important place to network and meet people is through professional organizations. Going to conferences, and signing up for meetings, for workshops – i.e. getting involved in your community is the best way to get ahead. Meeting people will not replace skill, so it’s a delicate balance. You have to meet people AND hone your craft because you have to be ready for the opportunity to knock on your door. But those connections you make are the things that will bring those opportunities knocking. You recall I said it wasn’t so much who you know, but who knows you? Well, that’s going to require getting out there and meeting people.
I know this looks a lot different these days since a lot of this happens virtually. But it’s not to say you can’t pop questions in the chat, or reach out after the fact. Some of the conferences I’ve seen have smaller breakout rooms that allow you to have closer one-on-one chats. And from what I’ve seen most people on panels are open to people reaching out and often give their social media.
Don’t be discouraged if nothing happens immediately. I remember one year I must have applied for what felt like hundreds of jobs, and I got no after no or just ghosted. I sat down with my therapist (therapy is important), and she said it’s ok, you’re planting seeds. At the time, I was angry, because I was like whatever, I want change – I want a job now. But, I’ve never forgotten that because you eventually do see results. See the interview process is almost in a way networking. I had tons of emails and direct contacts for interviews I had been on which resulted in jobs later on. Because instead of going through the internet, if I saw the job posted a year later, guess what – I had the email of the person I interviewed a year ago, so I just wrote them directly. Also, if you make a good impression on the recruiters/employers, it’s not to say they won’t contact you later.
This is why it’s so important to be cordial. Be careful how you speak and treat people because you never know when or where those people may pop back up in your future. You don’t want to burn any bridges. How you speak and treat people will follow you everywhere you go. There may be a lot of people across the globe, but the audio community is in fact very small.
They say that success happens when opportunity meets preparation. So make sure you’re ready, and get out there (in person or virtually) and make some connections.