Often, the connections you've made are what lead to getting work as a city builder. None of us do this work alone - and to make a living doing it means building relationships that may translate to collaboration opportunities. For some, networking can be painful. Understanding how you can find ways to network that mesh with your personality and schedule are key to securing a future that comes with the ability to make your rent!
Use the Environment You're Already In
Are you a student? Make a concerted effort to build real relationships with your peers and instructors. Especially for those who already hold a position within a firm or agency that aligns with your interest, use your time in your program to sit down with them and ask: How did you find your way to your current role? If I wanted to work in a similar position, what steps would you recommend I take to get there? Instructors and professors in particular are often willing to sit down and offer guidance. They have office hours for a reason! Take advantage of that time to score some real, practical insights. Asking a principal or supervisor at your firm or agency to grab a cup of coffee can work as well for those who aren't currently enrolled in a degree program.
Keeping Tabs on In-Person Events
Have a free evening coming up? Make the decision to dedicate that evening to growing your network! Often, local professional associations and other groups that may be of interest to you are hosting a happy hour, learning event, or other gathering. While it's great to meet people who have had your same experience, try to step outside your comfort zone by attending an event for peers in a related (yet different) profession. For example, attend a gathering for architects and designers if you're an urban planner or street artist. Often, it's peer professionals who make the decision to hire someone with your skillset or expertise. Mingling with them can be a great opportunity to introduce yourself to local practitioners, hear about the work they do, and brainstorm ways you can fit your services into their rotation. Make sure to subscribe to newsletters of relevant local associations and chapters, as well as keep tabs on sources like Facebook Events for opportunities like these!
The Cold Email
No one likes to send a cold email or message on a social platform. In this approach, you reach out to someone you don't know or maybe have met casually in the past. Especially when sending one to a person whose work you admire, doing so can feel intimidating and like a lost cause. However, it's worth doing if you're interested in connecting with someone who you don't have a colleague in common with.
It is true that a cold email is less likely to receive a response, but when there's something in it for the recipient the odds of it working in your favor skyrocket! Never be afraid to cold email a professional you appreciate to congratulate them on a project well-done, great press coverage, or to ask for a brief phone call to get their input on your path as you choose a degree program or model your new consulting business. Everyone appreciates receiving emails of this nature, and if they have the time they'll be likely to respond - even if it's just to say thank you for the kind words.