How Gratitude Maintains Connection: Artists and Designers Networking Guide Part 4

Artists and Designers Networking Guide: Part 4 embraces the power of gratitude. Networking means connecting with other people. Everyone wants to be around grateful people. Jump to the other posts about networking:

Gratitude is the key for easily maintaining connections in all of your relationships. I was originally going to write this part of the guide focusing on “connection maintanence”. Not only does the idea of maintaining relationships like a car sound cold and fake, it’s not accurate. We don’t just fix and replace our relationships just so they’ll keep working for us. We help others because we care and want to contribute to others happiness.

Whether it’s with friends, family, coworkers, former coworkers, client or other professional contacts, the one easy way to connect, reconnect or reach out is to give thanks. Who doesn’t appreciate a simple thank you note? Even if it’s for something that was a long time ago.

In the first part, I talked about how our network is our friends and family. Introducing those connections to our art and design work is a key idea in networking. As artists we strive for creativity, authenticity, and a sense of sense. Understanding our role as a kind of friend to those at work and in more professonal contexts is key to become an amazing networker. In part two, the focus was learning how to talk to others no matter where we go. In part three, there were ten tips to following up with your existing or new friends. How does gratitude factor in at the point of maintaining a connection?

Networking has a sleezy reputation that’s based in the realm of “I need something”. Sending a simple thank you note when you need nothing is not only the way to make your relationships more human, it’s also just a nice thing to do. Attach a thank you note to an invoice, and add sentence expressing thanks to more emails. When you express that you’re thinking about the other person’s point of view, they’re more likely to help you. When you don’t know what to say, there is always something to say thank you for.

Gratitude creates win-win situations

An article in Fortune titled “Why gratitude is good for business, year round” tells the story of how a limousine business held a lunch for the secretaries and coordinators who contact them for services. Usually they are the ones who get to watch their bosses and collegues attend events. A simple one-time event of gratitude became one of the biggest selling points for the business. Now by using this particular limousine company instead of others, their bosses were able to get the side effect of giving those who assistant them a cool event.

This also is a great reminder of how much more meaning we can give if we thank people who are never thanked. The actions we deem with an entitled notion that what was provided is not extraordinary. Therefore less worthy of thanks. Without their service, what would your life look like? If they all went on strike or vanished in the next rapture, what would you do?If you lived in a country or situation without them or were trapped alone on an island never to have help again, what would that feel like? If they were hit by a bus tomorrow, would you care even a little? When looked at it that way, showing appreciation for the existance of others is one powerful thought that too many people never allow to cross their minds.

Gratitude the opposite of expectation

Why say thanks to people for doing what they “should” be doing anyway? The real truth is that no one is obligated to help you. Inducing fear, obligation, and guilt are network killers. Even if you’re not inducing those qualities on purpose, if you don’t cultivate gratitude it can appear that you’re only connecting to cash in down the line. The goal is to provide emotional support, not just receive.Seperate messages and emails of appreciation from ones you are in need. Do you only send an email to your coworkers when you’re asking for something?

“Learn how to be respectful to your friends, don’t just start arguments with them and don’t tell them the reason, always remember your friends will be there quicker than your family. Learn to remember you got great friends, don’t forget that and they will always care for you no matter what. Always remember to smile and look up at what you got in life.”  Marilyn Monroe

How gratitude helps you feel good

Thinking about others can be a very positive experience. When you realize all that they’ve done to help you, you’ll realize how much support you have. When you’re having a bad day, write thank you notes for all of those who contributed to your success.

In the TED Talk “Remember to Say Thank You”, Laura Trice discusses how asking for praise is a form of vulnerability: ” I’m telling you where I’m insecure. I’m telling you where I need your help. And I’m treating you, my inner circle, like you’re the enemy. Because what can you do with that data? You could neglect me. You could abuse it. Or you could actually meet my need.” Letting others know that you will appreciate them can be scary!

We let them know we do our best to meet their wants as much as it works for. We often don’t show praise for the same reason, it is vulnerable to trust and desire from others. What we cultivate by being appreciative is a world where it is easy to give and receive. When we do need to say no, doing so graciously and with thankful kindness is still a powerful act.

“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.” Oprah Winfrey

You might even decide to write notes that you won’t even send or to people who are no longer living. Writing a note to your departed grandmother for teaching you about perserverence provides you with a role model who you would strive to be more like. Psychologists found that those who focus on gratitude felt better about their lives; they also exercised more, became physically healthier and had a healthier general sense of well-being.

Other studies found relationships built on appreciation are more positive and  were more in working through concerns. Instead of showing your middle finger when a car honks, why not say to yourself “Thank you for being patient!” When you go through a crowd and say excuse me, why not add “Thank you for letting me by!”

How to respond to gratitude

When someone says thank you, we are taught to say “You’re weclome.” Other variants are “No problem”, “My pleasure” and “Of course.” In short form, the polite or common answers allow us to move on with our day. On Psychology Today, Adam Grant, PhD wrote about alternatives to “You’re welcome” providing a few reasons to give us a more thoughtful response. We can cultivate further gratitude rather saying that we’re happy to give. He suggests finding your own way to say “I know you’ll do the same for someone else.” That phrase let’s them know that you value appreciation as an idea in general. In the context of networking, friendship, and connection, we can imagine how we are more willing to do more for those who we know will appreciate it.

Thank people publically and privately. Sound grateful to people who aren’t even present and might not hear your words. One of my favorite things to do is when a friend or coworker comes up, I say a few things I like about them. Even if the person I’m speaking to doesn’t know my coworker, it shows that I think about how other people contribute. This tells my friend who is listening a powerful message that I will appreciate them too. They’ll imagine that I probably go around saying nice things about them too. It’s like positive gossip. Instead of social anxiety, this emphasizes social confidence.

Thank you for reading my post! I know you didn’t have to and I appreciate you giving these thoughts a chance.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Practical Tips: Artists and Designers Networking Guide Part 2

Artists and Designers Networking Guide: Part 2 in this series focuses on practical advice that you can do right now to meet other artists. Jump to the other posts about networking:

We looked into how to get started with networking in the first part of this guide and what that really means. I can summarize that post in saying that real and practical networking means to forget about the word “networking” and start concentrating on having real quality relationships. If you have relationships with friends, family, and former coworkers where you’ve already established that you’re freely giving and receiving without pressure. You’re more focused on helping rather than receiving. One of the many parts of your friendship may just be professional or work related, though it isn’t the focus of your connection with any of them.

In the first part, I also introduced social networking’s role in maintaining and creating real life connections. There is an art in conversation to avoid being too pushy or too focused on yourself. You never know what your online interactions will lead to. Here’s a random example of how interacting with Baltimore Magazine’s Facebook page led to my little gem of a comment being printed:

 

Baltimore Magazine consulted the expert on office party etiquette.

A photo posted by – Brian E. Young (@sketcheeguy) on

 

I’m being very practical here because I think this such a vastly misunderstood topic. For part two, I wanted to focus on some real actionable tips that you can do today and everyday. You won’t be able to do all of these every day, though if you create these as frequent habits, you won’t think about the word “networking” much at all. You’ll just live life surrounded by people you care about and who you would help and perhaps could help you.Help people when you have nothing to gain.

How to talk to anyone

The key to talking to anyone is to focus on the other person when possible. I recently listened to the audiobook How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes and that the author’s main advice. How many conversations have you found where you didn’t feel that you were truly listened to? This is a gift we can give others that will help them see that we are their friend. I believe that the trick to focusing on others is becoming truly interested. Find what’s interesting about what they’re saying and lead the conversation there. Give them your undivided attention.

If they ask questions about you, feed their curiosity to do so. This shows that you’re listening and want to give them the information that they desire.

Dress the part.

Dress up, wear something that you feel confident in and feel special. Wear something special that people might even ask about so you won’t always be the one approaching them.

Ask for advice.

Others appreciate being seen as an expert, so ask them questions about what they’d recommend you do. This still keeps the focus on the artist and their event rather than making it about you. When asking for advice, try to focus on you’re asking them what you can do for yourself rather than asking for favors. Rather than ask for their help, ask how you can help yourself.

Focus on what you can do for them.

If an opportunity to help others and be a good friend arises, offer. Don’t be pushy. An offer that is turned down easily is seen as sincere! So even “rejection” is an opportunity to show that you’re helpful. You might ask if they have a website. If not and it’s something they want, you can offer to help them build one. Or let them know about a great service that is low maintence.

Be careful about monopolizing time.

Offer to let others out of a conversation if it feels you’ve been talking for a while. This is also a chance to offer to continue the conversation another time. If a phone number sounds more personal than the conversation would allow, ask if they have a website or Twitter or Facebook.

Listen.

Avoid being so overly prepared that you are just trying to talk about your talking points. Allow the other person to share the direction conversation. Be interested

Send a thank you.

Feel free to contact the artist via social media or even exchange contact information if the conversation is intense enough.

How to Visit Art Galleries

If you’re near a city or even a fairly well populated area, you’ll have many local art galleries who are open to provide a service to the art community. Galleries have free events, art receptions, and concerts. This is a perfect setting for artists and designers to practice your skills, meet other creatives and talk about your art. The people who attend are already interested in the same things as you. Not only that, you’ll be able to see work to inspire you! I visit the local art galleries whenever I’m in a new town or city. If all else fails, t’s free entertainment.

Here’s an art gallery I visited in Chicago when I was there for a wedding that also sold vinyl, prints and posts from concerts. I had a great conversation about the staff and learned a little bit about the city and the area while I was there. Nothing forced, just natural conversation asking whatever I was curious about.

 

Show up at art openings and events. Dont expect too much, just brief conversations. Think of this as practice and play Otherwise just enjoy the art! Ask the artist questions about their art, focus entirely on them. Inevitably they may ask a little bit about you, use the chance to have two or three sentences about your artwork. Then gently focus back on them. Stay positive and focus on what you like or love. It may be their sense of color or even their bravery for simply being there

Talk with the gallery owner and staff. They tend to be very passionate about visual work, have a rich background, and a lot of inspiration and advice to give. You might be interested to know about the history of the space, how they decided to be in this career path, or to know what other events they have planned.

Share and talk on social media. Promote the events and shows you think are interesting, just like you do with your favorite restaurant or with other parts of your day. When you visit, take photos for instagram, tweet about the show, and connect.

Respond to call for artists. Make art and submit to any open calls that interest you. This one isn’t just for artists. Graphic designers take note that many designers create work for shows. If you illustrate or design something interesting, submit it to a show.

How to Volunteer

Look for volunteer work related to art, design or even other unrelated interests. This is a way to meet new people, introduce yourself as an artist. I play piano and often when I was in college would play piano at gallery openings. See my post on why you’d want to be a design volunteer for a more thorough explanation on how to gain work experience, portfolio pieces, education, confidence and friends through volunteer work.

How to Interact with Art Organizations

Find the local art and design organizations in your area. You can volunteer with your local chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design, without becoming a member. Many formal and informal organizations post to Craigslist and MeetUp.com with various art related activities as well. A simple google search for local events will give you a ton of ideas about what you can do.

How to Take Classes

They offer classes at galleries, art supply stores at a variety of local businesses. Anywhere you can go and see the same people more frequently will encourage more connection building. Once people are familiar with your face, you’re more likely to easily strike a conversation with them. Even if it’s to say “Hey, we’ve been in this class for a few weeks and haven’t talked! You seem really good at this!”

How to Freelance

Using freelance and paid side projects can be a great way to network and make money while doing it. Look for companies and organizations with a need and see what you can offer them. This is another place where the local Craigslist comes in handy as well as the major freelance sites.

Next: Following Up: Artists and Designers Networking Guide Part 3

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Why you’d want to be a design volunteer

Every year, new designers prepare themselves to enter the workforce. Some of you are new college graduates. Others are making either a big or shift in their career path. Perhaps you’re experienced in publishing design and now you’ve trained to tackle a position in the web. You’re smart, you have the skills. While that may be true, there is a difference between simply having knowledge a skill and having demonstrated your ability to use that skill to accomplish a task.

With some smart decison making, volunteering can be the first step in becoming a well-paid freelancer or full-time employed designer. Becoming a volunteer is not just for new designers either. An experienced designer can get to do things they can’t do in their regular job. Why would you want to volunteer?

Work Experience

Many jobs and even internships are looking for people with some experience, a real world portfolio, and professional references. New job seekers tend to ask the question: How can we get a job in a new field without already having some connections?

If you don’t have connections, then you need to find and make them. If you don’t have the necessary experience, then you need to start experiencing. Volunteer work or unpaid internships is one of the methods for new job seekers to start translating their newly acquired skills into real world accomplishments for an organization.

It won’t catch my eye as an art director if you say in your cover letter, “I know InDesign” since anyone can install and use a computer program. It will be far more impressive if your cover letter has the intriguing story of how you “designed a brochure for the local branch of the American Red Cross that was distributed to 12 events.” I talked in an episode of my podcast about how having a story to tell makes your creative work interesting; having a story also helps make you an interesting person, a grounded friend, and an impressive employee. 

Portfolio

As an art director, I can assure you that we’re not overly convinced by student work. Sure, showing that you can create a beautiful design effectively with your tools is a telling step which we do like to see. It’s true that having the creativity to produce an imaginary student project is useful as a working designer often will have to invent details that aren’t provided. At the same time, most of us work to implement the visions of our clients and coworkers. We are constrained by the real world needs of a project. 

Volunteering will place you in the position of having to deal with outside interests, organizational limitations, and a real world audience which will often be discerning. If you after all of that, you’re able to come up with a stunning portfolio piece, then hiring managers will be impressed. Having the skill to create is a great piece of the puzzle, while still the focus of a hiring manager or a client is to see if you can use those skills to create what they need. Your resume, portfolio, and cover letters will ideally reinforce the story that you would help serve the business needs of your employers.

Education

Being a print designer, I found volunteering to be a great way to solidify my web design abilities and gain confidence. Many charitable organizations would love for you to give them an awesome new website. If you’re looking for less of a commitment, you could offer training to do web updates or assist in maintainence.  

For one organization, I simply created some basic graphics for their websites. For another, using their existing templates and CMS to enter content was a way to learn from those who had worked on those sites before me. These are the kinds of demonstrations of accomplishments that employers are looking for. These are also the types of case studies that we often pay professors to provide when we can also get them for free and get more value out of them

Facing your fear

Going into a new field is scary. In an episode of The Uncanny Creativity Podcast titled Face the Fear of Failure in 6 Steps, I talked about how success requires moving forward with something that might not be perfect. One way to face your fear of failure and gain confidence is to simply practice. When you practice using your skills in a a volunteer environment, they will be tested. You will be challenged and from those challenges, you’ll learn something and those are lessons that you’ll apply to your work and life.

Every time you volunteer for a new organization, you’re signing up for a new experience. Rather than paying for the movie version, you’re getting a new situation first hand. The places you get to see and work for might feel scary, silly, weird, funny, or crazy. There could be interesting people who you’d never want to see again. There could be interesting people who you’d want to become best friends with.

Professional Friendships

Networking has a bad reputation. That’s due to the many networkers who seem to selfishly want to take advantage of others. If you’re just out to use people, it’s unlikely they’ll want to help you. Instead, successful networkers form professional friendships. They’re quality friends like any other, they just have the common interest of some overlapping career goals. Treat others as friends who you admire and like. Volunteering provides a way to practice being charitable and positive when meeting new contacts. Depending on the organization, your new friend may have some solid advice for your career. 

If that sounds more appealing to you than what you’ve known about networking, then banish the word from your mind and look for friendship or acquaintence-ship. Find kindered spirits who you genuinely like and admire. Help them not because you need them, but because there is something you want to share with them. If that’s something that appeals to you, be sure to check out my post How to Get Started: Artist and Designer Networking Guide Part 1 for more details.

Collaboration

Even if you don’t meet friends or even a professional contact, volunteering still provides a real world situation where you can practice collaborating with others.  I’ve talked a lot about the importance of collaboration in both my blog (6 Dos and Don’t for Killer Creative Teams: Confessions of a Bad Team Player) and on the podcast (How to Collaborate More Effectively). This is a skill you’ll be practicing you’re entire life, so having more chances to work with others will give you valuable insights in all of your relationships.

A word of caution

If you’re going in looking for professional friendships that’s certainly possible. However, don’t mistake a volunteer opportunity or even an unpaid intership as a replacement for your job search. A coworker talked to me about how one of Baltimore’s major museums had employed her friend full-time for over a year. Her friend believed this would somehow translate into a paid position which was quite foolhardy and a recipe for resentment.

Being charitable is not your full-time position in life, especially not professionally. Set a clear and short-term limit for the amount that you are willing to do for free. A one semester internship is reasonable considering your vast lifetime, though years of full-time free service probably would not make sense for most people who have will bills and expenses.

Find reasons to be involved that are charitable and fun. If it ever stops being that, reconsider whether this works for you. If not, walk away without burning bridges. You may even take the opportunity to ask for a letter of recommendation. Be clear about what you are getting out of the situation. Ultimately, know your worth and know that your work is worth a lot of money. A You’re worth being paid tens of thousands of dollars a year.  

Finding volunteer opportunities 

The process of getting volunteer work isn’t that unlike applying for a job or finding freelance work. You contact an organization, tell them what services that you would hope to provide for them, and discuss any details. Your committment could be as small as an hour or as large as a full project requiring more regular committment. As you might in a job search or a friendship, focus on what you can do for your contact and their organization rather than what you’re getting out of it.

I’ve participated in some interesting opportunities through Volunteer Match. They have many big and small opportunities. For example, when I search the site I’ll see the prestigious Kennedy Center in DC, local government, and charitable organizations. Not only are these great names to add to your resume, they’re just interesting places to visit and contribute to. Volunteer Match also has virtual opportunities where you can help from your home computer.

You might also think about looking through listings on Craigslist. You could also freelance for work, and sure do that too. But as a volunteer you can help out some pretty worthy causes and often get a nice letter of recommendation or thank you letter. These are great for references without the hassle of dealing with the business side of freelance.

If you’re involved or want to be involved with your church, student organizations, or any organizations in your community contact them with ideas. You might suggest a flyer of upcoming event, re-designing their website, or see some other need that you can help with.

Have you had any successful volunteer experiences that you’re proud of?

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

The State of Web Analytics: Infographic

As you might know, the term analytics refers to online software used to understand how viewers like you visit a web site. If you’re a web site owner or web designer, you’d use these tools to figure out what your audience wants and how best to serve them. I designed this infographic explaining the terms used by web analytics sites a few years ago and I think it’s still fairly relevant. Feel free to download and reshare, creative commons license is below.

Is there any web terminology that isn’t covered that could help you design your web site? What industry terms have caused confusion for you?

Tweet this post: Do you understand these web analytic terms? #infographic

This post was originally written as a guest post for a site that has since closed. I wanted to make sure the graphic was still available for all of you.

Analyzing Web Analytics Infographic by Brian E. Young is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

No One Understands Graphic Design

Graphic design is everywhere. Our work is seen by thousands. Often we’re uncredited and our role in the process is diminished. After all, we are hired to visualize another company or person’s vision. When you tell someone you’re a graphic designer, be prepared for the barrage of questions about exactly what that is. Part of it that is that our industry uses the term graphic design to refer to a wide variety of specialties. Sometimes that makes it easier for us to take on different types of work. Sometimes it makes it hard to tell people we specialize in print and not web…

You’re more function than form

Design has always been about functionality. Whether it’s to market a product or to help instruct on it’s use, what differentiates design from non-commercial art is that we have a function. Let’s take flat design, which web designer Luke Clum so eloquently deconstructed as a user friendly step forward in his beginners guide for Creative Blog. The premise of flat design is using simplicity to our advantage to grab attention and focus on the most basic elements. Solid blocks of color and simple type choices help using flat design very straight forward. This has become especiallyl useful in smart phone apps where designers attempt to balance branding with ease of use for consumers on the go.

You’re not in an art museum…yet

Graphic design needs it’s time in the spotlight,” writes Olly Wainwright for the The Guardian. While various museums and institutions are dedicated to architecture and crafts, we’re just starting to see graphic design rise. Wainwright tells us about initiatives in London and how design is seen in British culture specifically. As a print designer, I found it especially interesting that print is still a huge and growing part of the industry. As much as we are told about digital, there is still a big market for analog products. Are there any initiatives in your area that show off the art of design? How do you tell people about your job?

You’re not a computer program

Have you seen the video “FYI I’m a graphic designer” with mention after mention of graphic design in television and movies? “I’m a graphic designer,” we hear in the film by London based designers Ellen Mercer and Lucy Streule. “So is everyone with a laptop.” In pop culture, graphic design exists in a Jetson’s like future where a push of the button does it all. In Hollywood, it seems like graphic designers are portrayed as if we’re failed artists, that it’s something anyone can do, and that there’s quality design is easy. In real life, even the most well-educated designers are challenged by our work. It’s still funny and cool to laugh at ourselves. There’s a lot more depth and hilarity to our work! I love all of the parts where they try to explain to people what they’re job is…

You’re not photoshop

No seriously, Photoshop doesn’t design things. A lot of designers don’t even use Photoshop much for their work. I’m more likely to be in InDesign and Illustrator when I’m designing magazines and infographics. It’s like saying anyone can use paint. It’s very true that anyone can put paint on a canvas. It’s just a tool. Anyone can cook. Doesn’t make you a chef. Speaking of tools, the San Diego Reader’s Ask a Hipster column explains the stereotypical connection between hipsters and graphic design. Do you agree with his assessment that it’s the perfect stereotype of the mdoern day hipster.

You’re not just a designer

In an interview with designbloom, designer and art director Jorge Leon talks about how he has a life outside of deisgn. “I love being a graphic designer,” says the designer who works out of Barcelona. “but I can also imagine myself being a photographer or something equally creative.”

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.