Tips for networking from industry pro Mark Soderwall

[Ed. Note] This article was written by Game Creator’s Vault founder and video-game industry professional Mark Soderwall.
I’ve blogged a little bit on this before, but let me tell you why I believe networking is one of the most important magic arrows to have in your industry quiver.

Now, while there will be debate on networking being the most important, I’ll tell you why I think it is an invaluable skill to have. While jobs and job offers may come and go, the one constant is your network. The professional relationships you invest in today will most likely carry through to tomorrow and beyond if they are properly maintained.

At the end of the day, the industry is made up of people. Relationships are what remain after the dust settles from events like graduation, job searching, layoffs and the like . The more you pour and invest into people by letting them get to know you and appreciate who you are and what you do, the more aware of you they remain and you become more marketable in their eyes. The network of people you surround yourself with takes your extremely limited individual awareness and multiplies it 10, 100 or even a 1,000 fold

What does this mean for you as the individual? It means your singular voice and eyes evolving into potentially hundreds of tertiary voices and eyes, all cognitive and aware of who you are, what you do and what you’re looking for.

Timing and awareness in regards to opportunity is everything concerning potential jobs. While you as an individual may miss or be blissfully unaware of something, someone in your network may bring an opportunity to your attention!

Industry-related groups on social-networking sites are helpful.

So, how do you build a network? While there are many ways, five come to mind that I invest in heavily:

Industry-related groups on social-networking sites can be a great tool.

1) LinkedIn Industry Groups.
2) Facebook Industry Groups & Pages.
3) Google Industry Groups.
4) Game Industry conventions like the Electronic Entertainment Expo.
5) Local Industry mixers and meetings.

Do you see a pattern here? It’s primarily “Game Industry.” If you’re able to find and join specific sub-groups that drill down to your focus (Designers, Artists, Programmers, Producers, Animator, VFX, etc.) you can narrow your focus and relationship building potentials.

It’s about nesting into communities that share your interests. Not necessarily which groups have the most job posting potentials or leads, which are still important to be aware of, but those groups are usually leach fests that are usually do not foster real relationship building potential.

Groups of like-minded individuals peppered with professionals, independent developers and students will not only broaden your awareness of their postings, insights, opinions and techniques but also of groups and individuals that will challenge and inspire you through their experiences, connections and potential insights.

While it may seem like a waste of time to post your daily challenges or ask for feedback on current projects to your networks, it gets your voice and works out there to a sea of potential employers and collaborators.

Remember, it’s about building awareness and relationships, which can take time. The more you invest in it and connect to people, the more appreciation and awareness you’ll garner, allowing more and more individuals to become familiar with who you are and exactly what you do, what you’re offering and what you’re looking for.

So get out there and start start blogging. Continue posting and always respond to those that reach out to you with feedback, questions, insights and virtual handshakes.

Also, don’t let someone’s lack of a title fool you into thinking they are less important to reach out to. In this day in age, the most unlikely individual may become the next CEO tomorrow. Keep that in mind. Be a giver, be respectful, be responsive and let people know who you are and that you generally care about who are they as well!

Good hunting!