Business

Networking Hacks for Newbies

Sharmadean Reid shares her top tips for networking using her 15 years experience of building communities.

By Sharmadean Reid

11 November 2022
W

hen you're starting out in your career or your business, it can be really hard to get the attention of senior leaders. You might feel like you have nothing to offer or that you are too inexperienced, but it's my belief that with tech, research and chutzpah, you can build your power network to support you on your journey. So let me tell you about how I got my first power person in my network when I was 18 years old and give you tips on how to can use the new insane Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 to build your power circle.

#1 - Be specific in who you want to connect with.

When I was a teenager in Wolverhampton, I was obsessed with fashion and would read magazines cover to cover. In particular, I was drawn to the work of a single stylist. His work mixed streetwear with designer clothes - a complete innovation at the time - and I would tear his shoots out and tape them to my bedroom wall. His images spoke to me and I decided - this is who I want to work for.

Don't use a spray-and-pray approach, but instead carefully research just 3-4 people you want to learn from. Go deep instead of wide. When I'm curious about a person, I may spend hours consuming their content to get a feel for what they stand for. To do this today, I use my Fold4's double-sized screen to browse profiles of people and watch video interviews of them on Youtube all while making notes. I never, ever, reach out to someone without doing my research on them. All the information to get started is out there. And so, I followed this stylist's career, read all the credits of every fashion shoot to see who he liked to work with, and research their careers too! I wanted to understand - is this world for me? Will I learn? Will I get to the next milestone?

#2 Stand out, by remixing and building on their work.

After deciding I wanted to work for him, I knew that fashion magazines received hundreds of internship letters a year, so I kept thinking - how will I stand out? To get my head above the rest, I got to work. I took pictures of his editorial work, made collages, rescanned them, and then turned the photos into physical pop-up books. That's right - I brought his fashion shoots to life in another format. I made two pop-up books of his work and sent them in the post to the London office. He telephoned me immediately - when would I like to start?

Image by Alice (centre) was a Stack Member who applied for a Product Owner role at The Stack. She is aligned with our mission and is now speaking on panels on roles in tech.

Your future mentors and power circles want to know that you are aligned with their mission and that you know what they stand for. Successful people tend to have gotten to their positions in life by building themed pillars. For me, it's gender, tech, and community. So now you've researched them you might want to engage in their topics. You could write a response to a paper they've published, or create a video reply to their social posts on Instagram. Take their work, and amplify it! With my Fold4 I can do rapid remixing and responses. Whether it's through a voice note, a tweet, or a blog post, I can get the attention of the right people. If you engage with their work often enough, they'll soon notice.

#3 Now you're in the door, stay there.

I moved to London in August 2003, to spend a month working for that stylist before I started my degree at Central St Martins. I felt had 30 days to prove myself. In fact, it didn't take that long. After a week or so, he asked me to work for him regularly! I was elated! I worked super hard, almost every weekend on top of my studies, and made sure I kept the energy and vibes. I was happy and friendly and did whatever was required to help him get that perfect shot! But most importantly, I talked to EVERYONE, and I still do. This is how you stay in the door. It doesn't matter if they're the assistant, or the President of the company, I would just be my chatty, curious self. People want to continue working with you when you leave them feeling energised and inspired. What do you bring to the conversation? Like most people, my phone address book became critical for maintaining relationships using messages and photos. Post-shoot, I would check in with my network with a personalised message and share my latest work regularly, knowing that when that ideal project came up, I'd be top of mind. Ever since I was a bright-eyed student, looking to make my way in the world, I've taken this attitude of curious conversation and vibes with me, and now, here I am. But there is still a long way to go...

#4 Always extend an invitation.

The new world of work can be overwhelming, and after being in London for almost 20 years (!) I'm lucky enough to have built an incredible network of people that I sadly feel like I barely get time to see. And so my last networking hack: always have something communal in the diary within the next three months. I used to do a dinner party for 8 people EVERY SINGLE FRIDAY at my house called Friday Fam. I had the booking link set up so my friends could select a day, even months in advance.

Picture this. You are at a busy conference and you have already met ten new people, but there is one person you really want to connect with in a deeper way. Finally, you get to that person. After wowing them in the first 30 seconds because you know what they stand for (no small talk here) and sharing how your work is relevant to theirs, you invite them to something. It could be a dinner party, it could be a roundtable discussion, it could be a podcast or panel (but go easy on the media asks the first time around) Either way, make it personal and intimate, and as you collect incredible people over the next month or two, say - "I'd love to have you over for X" can I get your details and send you an invite? Because your gathering is already scheduled, you can pull you Fold4 out immediately and with a few taps, you're on your way to a deeper relationship.

Image by The Stack World Dinners are a favourite for our member community

Building a power network takes time and effort, but it's worth it. When you have a strong network of supportive people around you, anything is possible! At The Stack World, we know that when women have a network, they increase their power base and their economic independence. Over the next year, I'll be sharing more tips on building a personal and professional community, kicking off with our IRL Workshop on November 28th at the London Edition Hotel. You can RSVP here to learn more about building your new power network. https://thestack.world/event/how-to-build-your-power-network-with-sharmadean-reid and learn more about the Samsung Fold Business community here https://www.samsung.com/uk/business/mobile/foldable/ #jointhefold #ad

The Short Stack

Sharmadean shares her top tips on networking for newbies!

By Sharmadean Reid

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