I find it's always useful for me to start a task with a definition and I thought the following definition was particularly apt for a professional artist. Networking is defined in the BusinessDictionary.com as 'creating...a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit'.
One of the main sources of networking for me is through my computer as this gives me online access to prospective employers through a variety of mediums. I have a Facebook account that I use for social networking, but it is also an excellent networking tool as I am able to view dance agencies and companies that advertise castings and auditions on their Facebook pages. I am also able to check out the companies by viewing information about them, and then - if I'm interested - private message my details directly to them.
I have my show reel on YouTube which is useful as I can send emails with links to this, making me immediately visible to employers; I can also private message my show reel links on Facebook.
I now have this blog, which is my newest networking tool and can be accessed by other professionals.
I am registered on 'Spotlight', which is well known throughout the industry as the main professional casting agency for actors, singers and dancers. Spotlight promotes their clients through an individual web page that contains a C.V., professional photographs, and even voice and dance clips. Employers can view the profiles of clients and express an interest in them. Equally, it allows me as a client to view current auditions and put myself forward via a networking link for any I think I am suitable for.
I have also joined 'Dancers Pro' and 'Singers Pro'. These are companies who charge a monthly subscription fee and, in return, they promote me as a performer. On these website, I have a profile page which includes my C.V., photographs, show reels, singing clips etc. It is quite expensive, but has proved to be invaluable as I have been offered contracts through both companies, and enjoyed a variety of work because of these websites.
My phone is proving to be a surprisingly valuable networking asset. I have managed to link my phone to the Dancers Pro and Singers Pro websites and I now receive instant alerts when new adverts come up that match my profile. Because of this, I am ahead of the game and can register my interest immediately.
I have an agent who contacts me by email, informing me of any auditions she thinks I might be suitable for. I have recently changed my agent as my previous agent charged 12.5% commission for all work, including those contracts I had found myself. I really didn't think this was fair as the last 4 contracts I had I'd found myself through successful networking. My new agent only takes commission on work she gets me, which I feel is a much better - and fairer - arrangement.
My most successful networking by far is through the contacts I have made in my career. My last three contracts have come from recommendations by a choreographer I worked with on one of my first dancing jobs. I do believe that if you work hard and don't let people down you get a reputation for being someone who is reliable and hardworking and you reap the rewards. I am also very fortunate in having built good relationships with my past employers, some of whom have offered me further contracts. I always find recommendations extremely flattering and I am glad that I managed to make an impression on those people I have worked with in the past.
During my career I have made strong and lasting relationships with some of the people I have worked with and we often contact each other when we see auditions and castings which we feel would be suitable for one another. I have been very fortunate in having met some wonderful, kind people who have become lifelong friends.
I admire those professionals who are relentless in their pursuit of work; I wish I could have their drive and determination. I send out my C.V.'s and do try to regularly update my contact details on my web pages, but I think I am lazy when it comes to actively pursuing companies that I'd like to work with. Whilst working on the ship, there were a couple of dancers who spent their spare time emailing employers and if they didn't get a reply they just kept emailing until they did. If I hadn't heard after a couple of emails I would have given up assuming that they weren't interested and concerned that they'd consider me a nuisance. One dancer in particular was relentless in his pursuit of work - he had even worked out the best days and times to email companies! It certainly seemed to work for him though, his calendar was always full.
Throughout module one, we have been asked to reflect back on our current practice and to move forward from where we are. Schon asks us to reflect on our ongoing experience and learn from it. I realise that in order to progress I need to change some of the ways I use my networking tools:
I spend a great deal of time reading other students' blogs, but I have lacked the confidence to comment, fearing scrutiny and criticism. On reflection I realise that this is a pre-requisite of the course and I aim in future to actively engage with my fellow bloggers by commenting on those blogs that I feel I could constructively contribute to.
I need to become more assertive in my pursuit of work and, reflecting back, see that the dancer who vigorously and relentlessly pursued employment was deemed as passionate by employers rather than a nuisance. I'm still not convinced that multiple emails would work for me, but in hindsight perhaps I do give up too easily and I will try to be more proactive in the future and aim to contact prospective employers regularly.
I have thought about having a separate Facebook account as this seems to be something that a lot of fellow bloggers recommend, but, on reflection, I like that people can see the real me, including my hobbies and interests. However, I can see both sides of the argument and this is something I will consider further.
I read in Kelly Everitt's blog that she found that the casting agency 'StarNow' was a particularly good agency for those dancers looking for teaching positions. As I am hoping to find teaching work, I intend to look at this site and see if it is worth me subscribing too.
I have found this task quite revealing. It has made me look at the effectiveness of my current networking strategies and emphasised the importance of keeping up to date with all that is available to us in order to market ourselves in the best way possible.
Please feel free to comment.