Task 3a: Current Networks
This task called upon the tools of reflection covered previously in the course to look inwards and out at our personal networks, identifying both the ways in which we currently use and engage our networks and the tools we could use in the future to make more effective use of our established methods.
What are the current and different ways (tools) that you have, or do, engage your professional network
Network Definition: from OED online
What are the current and different ways (tools) that you have, or do, engage your professional network
Below I have posted a picture of the ways in which I engage my current professional networks.
The first column shows the tools I use both personally and as a performer to engage directly with my industry: I have a separate Facebook Profile and Page, a Twitter account for my performance persona as well as for 'myself', separate websites, different LinkedIn and YouTube pages, under both my performer name and my real name. These are direct points of contact with my professional persona and therefore I aim to keep it distinct from my given name, as far as possible, due to the personal and ethical implications of the work I do and how it may reflect upon me as a person in the future.
The second column shows the tools I use less often and less formally: i.e. I only have one account, one presence on these platforms. I found early on in my performance career that these tools did not necessarily work for me in terms of engagement with my intended professional network and therefore I only use them informally and not as a tool for work (either performance or otherwise) They are simply a platform for pictures, images, and my interests.
The third column shows the tools I possess for networking away from Social Media – offline engagement, if you will! These show ways I engage with my professional network personally: face to face, when we are backstage at shows or at the same event together. My close professional network have a text message thread that we use to contact each other and make a point of meeting at least once a week. I am fortunate in that my close professional network is completely comprised of close friends: we all work regularly together and this fosters a sense of solidarity and contributes to a solid support structure.
What are the established (and different) ways that others use their networks, especially if they're more established or experienced practitioners that you admire?
Many of the practitioners I admire have been able to harness the power of Social Media outlets that have not worked for me personally: a friend has become a respected fashion blogger through building her network on her blog page – my performer blog is little more than a glorified diary! Another practitioner has grown her brand through Instagram and now has a 'bricks and mortar' vintage clothing shop, which she attributes in part to harnessing the power of this outlet.
I have also heard of people being offered jobs, both for performing and for other, so-called 'real life' work, on the strength of their LinkedIn Profile: this is another outlet that, while I have two profiles on the network, I have never been approached for work, or gained a booking through. LinkedIn is something I intend to look at more in the future when applying for work outside of performing as I believe it has the potential to become a useful tool in my personal arsenal!
Many Cabaret performers use Facebook to advertise shows they are either producing or performing in: it is a way to both promote the show itself, and as a method to enhance personal visibility: if you look busy, you will attract more work!
A poster using an image of myself: used during the tour of a show I performed in.
Image originally from Scott Chalmers Photography - image use from theburlesqueshow.co.uk
Are there methods, approaches and technologies that you use socially that might apply and help you develop your professional networking?
This is an interesting question: is how we network online, or in a personal context different to how we present ourselves professionally?
When I am posting as my performer persona, I write how my 'character' would write – I tend to be quite informal and write in an upbeat style as this is the image I wish to project to potential employers. When I am networking either after a performance or at an industry event, I try to portray the same persona – I use words I wouldn't necessarily use as 'myself': I have caught myself saying things like “This cocktail is simply divine”, or “Your shoes are darling!” whereas, as myself, I would say something along the lines of “I like your shoes”!
If language can be considered a 'tool of networking' then yes, I change my language and style of speech to fit a character.
However, as myself, if I was networking for a job that required 'me' as opposed to my character, I would be much more formal and polite. I speak with a general RP accent anyway so can sound quite 'posh' at times, which can go in my favour depending on the job I am applying for!
I wonder whether using the tools I use as 'myself' would aid or hinder me when networking as my character? In the Cabaret world, everything is heightened and dramatic, and to network effectively in this environment requires me to match that level of emotion, both in person and online. In my real life networking situations, this wouldn't be appropriate at all!
Also, online Social Networks can appear to be quite 'self-orientated': “I am doing this...” “I think that...” and so on. To network this way in a face-to-face scenario would be extremely off-putting. In real-time situations there is much more of a need to engage directly with the person you are speaking with – conversations on Facebook and Twitter can develop through comment threads, however initial statuses, posts or links are nearly always from the point of view of self-interest. Despite networking arguably being always in self-interest, it would be important in an offline scenario not to appear this way! However, the confidence we project online would be a useful strategy to incorporate into face-to-face networking.
Image Source: sowhatsocial.com
When you reflect upon current networks, can you think about the motives of others to be in the network and what values and purposes they have in mind?
In my personal professional network, I am lucky that my close working relationships are with a group of very good friends. Our motive for being in this network is obviously work, as we perform together regularly and produce a couple of shows together, however we are also friends outside of this and often just 'hang out' together outside of a business context: we place value on our personal as well as our professional relationship.
Other networks I consider myself a part could be considered to be purely for work. My motivation for being part of certain networks within the cabaret industry is simply to be 'seen' and to make myself more visible to potential bookers. Within the wider network of my working acquaintances there are a couple of people I consider to be work-friends, and others that I have a purely professional relationship with and would not network with outside of a show or event.
The disparate personal networks of working relationships within the Cabaret industry are all brought together by Social Media networks: there are performers who I have never met, yet I am friends with on Facebook: I follow people on Twitter that I met once, years ago, etc. The motive for us to be on Facebook is to promote ourselves for work and bookings, to make ourselves visible and available and to make connections through Social Media that may lead to real-world connections.
Image Source: itlever.com - I adore this image as it encapsulates perfectly the notion of the entire world being online, or 'plugged in to the network'!
What would your ideal network look like, and why?
Personally I feel I have found my ideal personal network! The group I work with regularly is comprised of a couple of my very good friends. As we developed a friendship out of our working relationship we each understand the industry and are able to negotiate our place within it – both for ourselves as individuals and ourselves as a group.
We are made up of a group of people who specialise in different areas of the performing arts industry (there is a sound and lighting technician, we have actors, script-writers, musicians, etc), and I feel that because each member of my personal network has something different to offer to the group we can become stronger as a whole, rather than a personal network entirely comprised of, say, drag queens, who would be in competition with one another rather than working as a coherent group.
I believe that this is what a 'perfect' professional network should be: a group of people with different areas of expertise, similar interests and the same goal.
My ideal professional network for my intended career would consist of practitioners already working in the field, alongside those at the same level to myself who are looking to make a career in the industry. I would also like to network with those who may have retired or moved on from the specific career: this way my ideal network would be comprised of those who are at all levels of their professional development and it would give me the benefit of hindsight, current experience and enthusiasm for role development.
What realistic things could you do towards developing your ideal network?
As mentioned, I am currently happy with my personal professional network! However, to develop it further we would need to expand our network while keeping the core group intact. We can do this in several different ways:
- As we produce shows, we could expand our network to managers of venues to incorporate them into our themes and ideas
- Bringing other performers into the network to provide them with opportunities for performance and for further networking!
For the purposes of my intended future career I am aiming to develop a network of practitioners who are working at a higher level to myself. I could do this in a variety of ways utilising Social Media such as LinkedIn and Google+, and looking at attending industry specific networking events. I am researching the industry through print books and internet sources in order to find out more about the field and consolidate my ground knowledge before I approach institutions or individuals for further networking opportunities.
My close personal and professional network! Image used with permission of those shown.
What tools and methods do you need to use? What do you know about your current, and intended networks, and importantly, what do you not know?
In my opinion the network that has worked best for me as a performer is Facebook: as I mentioned in Task 1, the ease of use, high visibility of posts and sheer amount of users adds up to me being able to promote myself easily and effectively with a wide reach.
However, for myself as a 'real person' I know I definitely need to expand my personal professional networks in order to progress in my intended career: I don't know anyone, either personally or professionally who works in the area I wish to pursue, and I am unsure of how to actively go about making connections in this arena. I believe that in order to make the connections I am aiming for I will make greater use of LinkedIn and Google+ as opposed to Facebook (which I use less formally as 'myself' as the only people I add as friends are my actual friends and family!) and use these two platforms to promote myself in the area I am looking into.
I am also intending to research professional networking events aimed at those already working in the area to see if it would be possible for me to attend myself and therefore make personal connections alongside virtual ones.
How have you considered the ethical concerns for networking in the workplace?
As considered through my blog in Task 2, there are many concerns regarding ethical issues in the Cabaret industry: since beginning this course I have been more aware of instances of poor ethical conduct, both in myself and others, and I have been taking measures to address these: including not mentioning performer or venue names, and not tagging people who may appear in my photographs unless permission has been given.
However, on the contrary to this, I have been more aware of respecting the work of others, such as photographers: I recently went through all of my images on my performer profile and made sure the photographers were correctly credited with links to their website or Flickr pages.
When among my personal professional network I do not feel I need to consider ethical implications as they are also my good friends. However when we are performing, whether together as a group or singly at separate venues, again I have become aware of not mentioning names of performers or venues, and not taking photographs backstage unless the other performers around me have given their permissions for me to do so.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, there is always alcohol on offer at Cabaret venues, purely because of the nature of the art form. I never drink before or during a show as it invalidates a performers liability insurance, however, even though I don't usually drink very much anyway, I am making more of an effort to further limit the amount I drink after the shows while still at the venue, to help me make more balanced decisions about the ethical implications of anything I might say or do!
Image Source: mashable.com
When I first read through this task, I was initially quite confused as to how to begin. I read through the Course Reader and related reading materials several times, searched a little bit online, and then came back to it with a fresh perspective and an inkling of where to begin.
I found the questions posed in the Reader offered excellent starting points to base further inquiry and it has helped me reflect on the ways in which I currently engage, and will aim to engage, with my professional networks, both immediate and future, online and in real life. It has also led me to think more about questions relating to the ways I make use of the networking opportunities available to me, and which ones can be utilised in a personal, professional and future context.
As with many of these tasks I find myself stuck to start with, then as soon as I start writing, I can't stop! Each sentence seems to lead to twenty others and I'm starting to get a little concerned about the word limit on the assessments!