We spoke to Dominic Sutherland, the managing director of NextShoot, a corporate video production company in London. In the second installment of this series, Dominic Sutherland talks about networking.

Is networking important for the video production industry?

‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ is cold comfort to students who’ve spent 3 years learning a vocational craft, but don’t yet have many contacts. Sadly, there is some truth to the saying, especially in the video production industry. 

Sixty percent of all jobs are in the ‘hidden job market,’ where positions are not officially advertised. I expect it’s an even higher percentage in the creative industries, which rely heavily on recommendations and where businesses receive a constant stream of speculative applications. 

Throughout your career, your CV and portfolio of work remain your calling-card, but you’re more likely to find work through your network of contacts than by responding to an advert, so make sure to connect with people!

What opportunities does Networking bring? 

Whatever stage you’re at with your career, networking offers you the chance to establish contacts for future employment or services, but when you’re starting out it also brings other opportunities such as gathering information on the sector and specific roles within the industry. This could help you clarify your path and goals. 

You can also find like minded professionals of all stages in their careers to bounce your ideas off and have potential collaborations.This could lead to mentorship where you can get advice on the future of your career in video production.

How can students network during their time at university? 

Networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone but it’s a crucial way of finding work throughout your career. Ahead of any networking event, get your elevator pitch worked out. What can you say in 30 seconds that encapsulates your skills, passion and goals? 

Some ways to increase your connections include:

  • Attending networking events: especially those that are career-orientated! Some platforms that hold them are Production Base, Eventbrite and Meetup. It’s worth remembering that networking is a two-way street, so while you should prep what you want to say about yourself, be prepared to listen to others.
  • Digital networking: this is more likely to be with people you know, but networking is about reaching out laterally to other professionals in similar roles as well as higher up the ladder. 
  • Social media platforms: LinkedIn is the most important one. Of course, this requires you to develop a professional-looking page of your own. The tone on LinkedIn is different to that on Facebook or Instagram, so you need to gauge how best to reach out to people.
  • Creating your own opportunities: even if you have yet to start work, you can build a website with information about your skills and examples from your portfolio. 
  • Networking with your lecturers: they can help you with career advice and potentially, if you’ve shown promise, provide you with a reference. 

Real life interaction is the most effective way to network! So join societies, seek out internships, volunteer in organisations. An example could be joining the media department of a charity. Be proactive!

How should graduates keep in touch with their contacts?

When you first make a connection it’s important to follow up quickly. So invite them to become a contact on Linkedin if you can, and personalise your message as a reminder of where and when you met. It’s also good practice to email any new leads so they have a record of your details, should they want them.

The hardest part is judging how forward you should be. It’s good to show passion, but don’t become too forthright. Use your common sense as to when it’s the right time to request a follow-up call or face-to-face. It’s definitely best not to alienate contacts who you might find useful down the line.

And there are always good reasons to get in touch later. An updated showreel, TX information on a project you’ve worked on, or an award or achievement give you a valid excuse to not only put a post on LinkedIn and other social media platforms but to email your contacts. 

Whenever a contact helps you, be sure to write to say thank you. A handwritten letter can show a personal touch. It’s worth remembering that at a certain stage in their career many professionals are looking for someone to mentor and champion. Become that person. Once you are established and in a position to help others, do remember to pay it forward to another generation of video production graduates. 

NextShoot is a small video agency, but we do offer year-round work placements to undergraduates. For details on this please visit the NextShoot work experience page.