By Catie Ruschak
On October 18, AAF Illinois hosted a presentation on networking with guest speaker Ben Brownback. Brownback is an Illinois alum and graduate from the Advertising department. He founded DAV Productions, a productions company in Las Vegas for which he now serves as CEO. While Brownback does not consider himself to be a networking expert, he does have a few tips he shared with AAF.
Networking Today: Brownback stresses the idea that networking isn’t just about formal meetings and dinners. He says that it’s more about creating social connections. This can be done anywhere- for students, the classroom is a great place to start! We’re all striving to be successful in the advertising industry, so don’t lose touch with your classmates after college. Chances are, one day they will be working for an agency you’re interested in, and could help you get your foot in the door with the right person.
Another tip from Brownback is to make the most out of chance encounters. Last May I was flying out to North Carolina for my internship training. I began talking with two men on the plane, brothers originally from Tennessee. Halfway through the flight I learned that one is a sales associate for Disney, and the other works as a senior media planner at Mindshare! The rest of the flight I told them about the internship I was starting, my classes at U of I, and my involvement with AAF. I walked off the plane with their business cards and added them on LinkedIn the second I got a chance.
Law of 250: While making meaningful connections is important, networking is an area where quantity is just as important as quality. Brownback told AAF about the “Law of 250”- the idea that every person knows at least 250 other people. And those 250 other people know another 250 people. And so on. Personally, I have 159 connections on LinkedIn. Multiply that by 250 and it expands my contacts to 39,750 people within one degree of separation from me. And in the professional industry, even being “the friend of a friend” can go a long way.
Keep an Updated Contact List: I know a lot of people who go through their phonebook or Facebook from time to time and delete people they don’t think they’ll talk to again. Choose wisely! Remember that kid from your group project in 412? You might think you won’t ever need him again, but in two years when you hear he’s a media planner at Starcom you might wish you still had his phone number or e-mail.
Also, those “KAMS bathroom ate my phone, need numbers!” Facebook groups might be acceptable now, but they certainly won’t fly in the professional world. Regardless, you always end up with way less people in your phonebook after something like that happens! Brownback suggests backing up your contacts regularly and having them available in multiple sources. I’m an iPhone user myself and am so thankful that I have all my contacts backed up on my computer- even though I’m on my third iPhone I still have all of my contacts from my first one.
Network “Up” and “Down”: When you get to be a junior or senior, you pretty much know everyone else in advertising that is the same age as you. But what about those freshmen? They’re small, they don’t know anything, and all they’re good for is stopping to check their maps of the quad the first week of classes and getting in everyone’s way.
Brownback says to network with them, too. While you definitely want to get to know the older advertising crowd, and people heavily involved in AAF (like exec and NSAC members), remember that the freshmen will be in those positions in a couple years. Just because someone is younger than you doesn’t mean they don’t have something to offer. Networking isn’t just about how your contacts can benefit you now; you need to be thinking about the future as well. It’s also about give and take- think about what you can offer to others in your network. Think of it like karma: what goes around comes around. If you help someone else in a networking aspect, chances are the favor will eventually be returned.
** All information presented comes from Ben Brownback’s networking lecture held in 319 Gregory Hall at 7pm on October 18. Brownback was kind enough to let me use information from his lecture to write this article. Thanks, Ben!