As professional musicians, we must create a personal network in order to connect and thrive in our field. It is easy to shy away from networking because it feels uncomfortable or inauthentic. However, if we look at its definition, we can shift our perception to the importance of networking that it feels genuine. In the Oxford English Dictionary, networking is defined as “the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.”
Why do you want to network? Having at least a vague idea of what you seek can steer you in the right direction and to the right crowd.
Some Non-Icky Reasons to Network:
- You’re passionate about a specific facet of music and desire a community of like-minded individuals to help each other succeed in creative projects
- You’re a teacher looking to learn from other other successful flute teachers
- You simply want to be more connected with your flutist colleagues in order to grow as a flutist
Some Icky Reasons to Network (Not Recommended):
- You want people to purchase your products
- You want to advertise your flute teaching
- You feel like you have to network because everyone else is doing it
Remember: We don’t want to just hand out our information or business cards to any musician we see and never hear from them again. This approach might feel easy, but it isn’t effective networking. In fact, most networking is a mix of in person and online connections. You can utilize both of these methods to grow your music brand or increase your success. Just be aware that networking through social media is more than a simple “add” or “follow.” Check out our other articles on boosting your brand or taking your social media to the next level.
Follow Your Passions
Once you have a broad sense of why you want to network, seek involvement opportunities in flute communities that align with your passions. Participating in a community effort can help you to feel accomplished, boost your resume, and organically make connections. Fortunately, there are many involvement opportunities for us in established flute organizations and groups.
Examples of how to get involved with the flute community:
- Volunteer with or present at a local flute non-profit organization such as the Texas Flute Society
- Join and engage in large Facebook groups like Etude of the Week or The Flute Teachers Network
- Attend or volunteer at in person flute events or music conferences 2023
- Participate in the annual National Flute Association Convention
- Join a community band
While fancy degrees are very helpful when it comes to flute playing and teaching, they don't always help us with networking. We also need skills that help us outside of school to thrive in the professional world. Think about some qualities of a good coworker: adaptive, communicative, collaborative, and reliable. When you’re working with other musicians, make sure to communicate clearly, respond in a timely manner, and be consistent in your work. The flute community is large but very connected, so your reputation will follow you. When you meet one flute player, there’s a high chance that you will see them again or that you will meet others that know them. By doing good work, you represent yourself well, and other people will want to work with you!
Build Quality Relationships
Building relationships with others is fundamental to networking, especially before introducing any “shop talk.” Most music jobs are done with or in proximity to others. While it is obviously imperative to play your instrument well, who you are as a person and how you treat those around you is just as important as your qualifications.
Networking is a great way to create a mixture of social and professional connections. Carmen Chavez, Flute Sales Specialist at CNMC, describes networking as "professional friend-making," which helps her to see it in a more positive way. People want to like the people they work with. If you keep a friendly, genuine demeanor, they will enjoy your presence and keep you in mind for future opportunities.
How do you build trust and relationships in your field? Make sure your intention is not “What can this person do for me?” but instead "How can I connect with this person?" Then, take initiative to start a conversation. You can casually introduce yourself to musicians around you and ask them questions about what they do. Bonus points if you don't just talk about music!
If you aren’t an extrovert, there are still plenty of ways to network that are more within your comfort level and maintain your personality. For example, join in group conversations with a friend or send someone you’d like to network with an email or phone call before meeting them. If you're interested in networking with someone specific like a college professor, learn about them ahead of time and schedule a lesson at NFA or a flute festival.
As musicians, we seek life-long learning and connection with our fellow musicians. With the correct strategies, networking can fulfill those goals while creating opportunities for personal and professional growth. Everyone has something unique to offer. Some flutists have more experience with networking, beginning pedagogy, literature, composition, or music history. Mentors are excellent resources to help us find jobs and introduce us to their own network.
Examples of Mentors:
- Your current or past professors and teachers
- Colleagues with more experience than you
- Flutists with different niches than you
- Other instrumentalists
Building trust and strong relationships by being authentic and working hard is an empowering way to network. Just because traditional networking can feel uncomfortable or icky doesn’t mean we can’t do it at all. Truly successful networking will contribute to the flute community as a whole. Stay consistent in your work, let your genuine personality shine, and seek out opportunities for connection.
7-05-23, Paula Mims