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On Networking
Angela Myles Beeching, Director, New England Conservatory Career Services Center
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ArtistLink10/10/2013

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You often hear, "It's not what you know, it's who you know!" There is a real element of truth to this but to be accurate, it's who you know and what you do about it that matters. Networking, or "schmoozing," is simply an exchange of information and resources; it's a two-way street.

People often associate networking with other fields — with high tech or business — not the arts. But networking is an important factor in all fields, especially in the "small world" of music where reputations and connections are critical, if not crucial, to career building.

Networking is nothing to be afraid of — it basically means being open and friendly to potential new professional contacts, mentors, employers and friends. It means getting out and meeting these people at concerts, conferences and association meetings.

Here are networking guidelines:
  • Be a good colleague. Don't overlook the "give and take" of networking. If you share useful information and leads with others, they will likely return the favor. Keep a rolodex, a file or a computer database of your contacts, including mailing and e-mail addresses, and phone and fax numbers. Exchange business cards with new contacts and build your list — an artistic administrator, a booking agent, a concert series manager, a record company representative. Keep in touch with these people; send them concert announcements, send them articles they might be interested in, send them congratulations and thank you notes when appropriate and they'll be that much more likely to think of you when they hear of an appropriate opening or opportunity.
  • Listen well to what other people are saying — about other artists, about the business, what contractors and conductors are looking for in artists, what they value. Find artists who are doing what you want to be doing — get to know them and hang out with them, because if they know your name, they'll be more likely to refer work your way. You need to network in such a way that people enjoy having you on the gig because the truth is there will always be another artist willing and ready to take your place.
  • Give more than you get. Give by sending thank you notes, passing along articles on topics that would interest your contact or by referring business or work to your contact.
  • Get to know people for who they are, not just their positions. Get to know your contacts' interests outside of work matters. People love to talk about themselves and to give their opinions, so practice striking up conversations that are totally unrelated to the music industry, such as a new film, book or a local hero.
  • Follow up on the advice/leads you receive. Even if you don't think it will pan out, if someone refers you to another contact, make the call. You never know when an unlikely contact may turn into an excellent opportunity. The opera world is quite small, so if someone went to the trouble of giving you referrals, they may speak to that person and find out you did not follow up. Make the right impression.
  • Report back to those who give you a lead. Send thank you cards. No one can ever hear thank you enough.
  • Ask for exactly what you need. Once you've made a new contact that you'd like to ask for information, be clear and concise; if you are looking for suggestions for promoting a self-produced CD, say so.
  • Keep your word. If you say you'll send information or press materials by a certain date, do it. It's your reputation on parade.
  • Use networking as a part of your job search strategy, not as your whole plan. Make sure you are also reading job listing publications, both articles and advertisements, and attending any related conferences, meetings, etc.
  • Make networking a habit. Get in the habit of regularly checking in with the people that you've met, and send congratulations notes, holiday cards, etc., to keep in touch.
  • Personal appearance counts. First impressions are lasting impressions. Be clean and neat, be moderate with cologne or aftershave, maintain a businesslike posture and demeanor, remember you want to be seen and treated as a professional. It can be difficult to see yourself objectively — get a reality check, ask for feedback on your appearance from a colleague whose business sense you trust.
Mapping Your Network: Relationships in Concentric Circles
Layers of relationships can be represented graphically: think of the rings of a tree with you at the center. Consider your existing relationships, the people in your life, past and present. Where would you place them in the chart?

Inner circle: Your personal advisory board; approximately five to 10 closest mentors and trusted colleagues/friends — people you turn to for career advice
Intermediate ring: Colleagues, former teachers, classmates, family friends, doctor, dentist, lawyer, etc.
Outermost ring: Fan base, concert attendees and casual acquaintances



What names would you put in each circle?

How are you staying in touch with people in each circle?

How might you reconnect with people you've lost track of?

When was the last time you spoke with the people in your inner circle? What would you like to consult with them about?
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About the Author: Angela Myles Beeching directs the New England Conservatory Career Services Center, a comprehensive career resource office for musicians, internationally recognized as a model of its kind. Beeching has been a guest speaker at the Eastman School of Music, Indiana University, and the Oberlin, Colburn and Peabody Conservatories. A frequent speaker at national conferences, she has presented at the National Association of Schools of Music, the Classical Singer Convention, Chamber Music America and the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. Her articles on music and careers have appeared in Classical Singer, Inside Arts and Chamber Music magazines. A Fulbright scholar, Beeching holds a doctorate in cello performance from SUNY Stony Brook. She is the author of Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music, published by Oxford University Press.Angela Myles Beeching directs the New England Conservatory Career Services Center, a comprehensive career resource office for musicians, internationally recognized as a model of its kind. Beeching has been a guest speaker at the Eastman School of Music, Indiana University, and the Oberlin, Colburn and Peabody Conservatories. A frequent speaker at national conferences, she has presented at the National Association of Schools of Music, the Classical Singer Convention, Chamber Music America and the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. Her articles on music and careers have appeared in Classical Singer, Inside Arts and Chamber Music magazines. A Fulbright scholar, Beeching holds a doctorate in cello performance from SUNY Stony Brook. She is the author of Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music, published by Oxford University Press.
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