I spent time with some amazing students a couple weeks ago at UofSC Digital Media Academy. Some of the best minority students from across the state were gathered here in Columbia for intense training. I had the pleasure of speaking to them, and the topic of networking came up. I’m repeating and embellishing the advice I gave at the time.
It’s important for everyone to find the groups that will help you advance throughout your career. I know millennials aren’t typically joiners, but hear me out.
How likely is it that your first job is your dream job? After college, how will you find your next job? Without going to class every day, how will you get the new tools to stay on top of your game? If you think your employer is going to supply all these resources, you are very wrong.
Many of the people in the room want journalism careers, so my first recommendation is
National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ)
at University of South Carolina, contact NABJ members
Dr. Shirley Carter and Rushondra James.
Industry organizations are networks that provide training, mentoring and connections. But that’s just the start.
For example, National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) is my tribe. These are my people. We think the same way, we laugh at the same jokes. We get excited about the same things. We roll our eyes at the same problems. I’ve been a member since early in my college years.
The benefits I’ve received include but are not limited to:
1. I’m listed in NPPA’s directory, so people who are looking for a photographer in my area can find me.
2. I’ve attended many seminars and training events over the years, allowing face-to-face contact with industry professionals.
3. The organization has kept me on top of major issues in the industry, like the shift now from staff photography to independent work.
4. Specific training like business practices, or new software.
5. NPPA contests allow me to put my work up against my peers, get feedback on my progress, and a few times I’ve gotten an award or two. Mostly, contests allow me to see the best work of the year and who is doing it. I’ve been inspired by the work of like-minded photographers.
6. I’ve met lifelong mentors and friends through NPPA networks, meetings and by working as a volunteer on various projects.
7. NPPA has a job bank for members only. Most photography jobs aren’t posted on Monster or public forums. Instead, they’re posted where they know they will find a very specific type of applicant. You have to be a member to know what’s available.
8. NPPA members commit to a code of ethics. As a member, I have a “seal of approval” that tells others how I operate as a photographer.
9. NPPA agrees with the causes I believe in. For instance, NPPA is doing incredible work with First Amendment issues, advocating for the rights of photographers and a free press. Membership fees help support a just cause.
Even if NPPA isn’t a good fit for you, I encourage you to find the right group. You won’t be sorry.