Connecting with an artistic director on LinkedIn. Sliding into a choreographer's Instagram DMs. Tweeting at your favorite dancer. With so many ways to network online, it's hard to know which are most professional and effective. How can students use today's digital tools to build meaningful relationships with the professionals they meet on campus?
These days, dancers have to be more than just talented artists. They also need to be skilled self-marketers—and college is the perfect time to start practicing. But when you're using tech to make connections, remember these three things:
It's not a job search. If your mindset going into networking is that it will land you a job, then you're not doing it right, says Emma Trammell, career advisor for the College of Performing Arts at Chapman University. "It really should be about learning from other people and sharing value with them as well," she says. Making connections for the sole purpose of getting a job can make you seem disingenuous.
Be a human. Don't stress over typing the perfect email or crafting a flawless Instagram post. Of course, stay professional, but share your authentic self, says Catherine Horta-Hayden, chair and professor of the department of dance at Towson University. "Networking is valuable because people want to work with good human beings," she says.
Find the best platform. Look at where the conversations in your desired career path are happening, says Trammell. A student interested in arts administration might find that key players are more active on LinkedIn, whereas a student pursuing a performance career might find that Instagram is a more popular platform.
Keep in Touch
While you certainly don't need to use every digital tool out there, make the most of those available.
Instagram: Your Instagram profile should be polished and professional and showcase your strengths. Be sure to follow artists that you admire—Instagram is a great platform for joining conversations that are happening in the dance world and for supporting other dancers. Take time to comment on a video that you enjoyed or repost a friend's work. And, yes, it's acceptable to slide into a choreographer's DMs. Just keep your message short, professional and personal.
LinkedIn: Dancers might think that they don't need a LinkedIn profile, but Trammell says it's actually a powerful tool for building relationships. While you probably won't find performing jobs here, it can help you connect with alumni. On your university's LinkedIn page, click on the alumni tab and search through the database to find people who are currently working in your career path. You can send them an invite to connect with a short message expressing your interest, and then set up an informational interview.
YouTube: For those interested in a performance or choreography career, you can assemble a video portfolio of your choreography, performances, commercial work and more that can be shared through one simple link.
Email: "Don't underestimate the power of thank-you emails," Trammell says. If you enjoyed a master class or guest choreographer, send them an email afterward letting them know. This helps organically cultivate the relationship and helps you stay connected. Want to go a little further? Ask if they would be interested in chatting with you more about their career path.