By Caroline Naughton Weaver (’11), Manager for Integrated Marketing at Disney ABC Television Group in New York City
There are a lot of misnomers about living and working in New York City, and I remember hearing just about all of them when I left Wake Forest and moved to NYC to work in the media industry. At the time, I only knew one other person in the city — which was daunting and intimidating, to say the least! But thanks to some great mentors and the support of the Wake Forest community, I’ve slowly built a network for both life and work. Here are a few tips on networking in NYC that I’ve learned along the way:
Talk To Everyone. When you only know one person in a new city, there’s only room for improvement! To help build my network, a mentor pointed me in the direction of the Wake Forest Career Connectors group on LinkedIn. I remember combing through the list and writing down the name of every alum, parent, or teacher who lived in New York and was affiliated with Wake. My first instinct was to reach out to the contacts who only worked in media, but that’s when another mentor told me about the “power of weak ties.” Here’s a good article working checking out on weak ties. In essence, weak ties are people you don’t have a strong relationship with and live outside your circle of friends, family, co-workers, etc. But the beauty of weak ties is that they have a network that you don’t regularly have access to. The people in the Wake Forest Career Connectors group were all great examples of weak ties, and just because they worked in the finance or insurance industries instead of media didn’t mean they couldn’t be helpful. For example, a Wake alum working in finance in New York might have a friend with daughter working at Netflix. If you’re thinking: “Well that just turns my targeted list of connections into a never-ending list of names, ” don’t be discouraged. If you re-frame that idea, it really just means that anyone can be a helpful part of your network.
Multiply Your Numbers. On my first visit up to New York, I had five people to meet with, and two weren’t even in the media field (I was trying to buy into that weak ties concept). It felt uncomfortable, but by asking: “Can you recommend 4-5 other people in NYC/Media/Marketing, etc. who you think might be willing to speak with me?”, I slowly but surely developed a list of new connections to reach out to. Following up in email right after the meeting gently reminded them to make the introduction. Another smart move I’ve witnessed is when networkers do their LinkedIn research after the meeting. I’m always impressed when I offer to introduce someone to any of my relevant connections on LinkedIn, and they follow up a day later with a list of 3-4 people they’d like to be introduced to. It’s hard to say no to someone who is that motivated to network!
Network Within Your World of Work. Early on, I thought that once I landed a job in New York, I only had to focus on maintaining my network instead of continuing to build it. Clearly, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Keeping in touch with the people I had met my first year in New York was important, but a few years into my career I needed even more specific industry insight and guidance. As your career evolves, so do the challenges, and having an ever-evolving, growing network is the best way to make sure you have the support you need to tackle those challenges. Try to find a new colleague to introduce yourself to at work, or set up a coffee date to find out what that person in Affiliate Marketing actually does. The benefit is two-fold when you meet someone you naturally click with: you’ve developed a new extension of your network, and made a new friend at work! And if nothing else, you’ve learned about a different part of the company which only sets you up to be more successful in your job.