We Need to Talk

A Student's Perspective on Networking

by Randi Cantrell
Working Associate Editor & Portfolio Studio Copywriting Student 

I’m just going to say it: there’s something about networking events that makes my palms sweat. For me, it feels a bit like being a cat; I am both curious and wary, excited and full of dread. One part of my brain thinks, “I’m a student. What can I possibly say? I have no idea what I’m talking about.” The other says, “Look! A chance to ask all those questions you have. Go!” Walking into The One Club for Creativity’s Intern & Creative Summer Networking Event was no exception, but by the end, I came to think of networking in a different light.

Held at the Los Angeles office of POSSIBLE for the first time ever, the event was relatively small. This made it easier to mingle. Well, a little easier. Within a few minutes of assessing the scene and debating who to talk to, my friend and I approached a woman standing by herself. Soon after, a man politely interrupted our chitchat with her, saying, “I’m going to talk with you guys because I’m a lone wolf here.” Both were creatives who worked at agencies in the LA area. The four of us talked about portfolio school, the local agency scene, photography, how small a world the advertising industry is—a wide spectrum of topics. We had introduced ourselves by name, but titles hadn’t really come up. Until they did.

I suppose I should’ve asked sooner, because it turns out we were actually talking to two of the event’s panelists. One, a Creative Director at Team One and the other, the Executive Creative Director at 180LA. No big deal.

Before I could scold myself for not recognizing their names, for not saying or doing something more memorable, for not asking something more important that would uncover my golden ticket into the agency world, both were whisked off to join the other panelists. The Q&A was about to start.

In those moments before the panel began, I realized something important. Something I hope I’ll remember as I walk into whatever networking event I next attend, while my brain is playing that tug-of-war between fear and curiosity. Here’s the thing: having a conversation without first knowing who they were was actually a good thing, because it meant I could focus on, well, having a genuine conversation. Without being intimidated by their titles, I was better able to just listen to their perspectives and maybe, if I was feeling brave, share my own.

Some of you may disagree. You might think I should’ve had an elevator pitch ready to go and a resume to hand off. You might say I should’ve pushed for an internship or a chance at a portfolio review. Maybe. There’s a time and place for those things for sure. But what if, instead of worrying about what we can immediately get out of a networking event, we focused on talking to other creatives like they were real, regular people, and not career genies who can grant all of our creative dreams if we charm them in just the right way.

I’ve since looked up their LinkedIn profiles and stalked their portfolios (oh, hi!), and they are both crazy talented and smart, but they don’t need me to tell them that. If I took away anything from the advice they shared during the panel, and I took a lot, it was that advertising doesn’t need more people to tell advertising creatives how smart they are. Advertising needs people who aren’t intimidated by a title, people who feel brave enough to share their opinion and bold enough to ask questions, people who can crack a joke and laugh at themselves. I’ll be the first to admit I’m still figuring this advertising thing out, but in my opinion, all of that starts with just having a real conversation.

You never know who you’re talking to.

Portfolio Studio is the creative hub that connects pros with ambitious students for professional development and portfolio building.