By Matthew Nuccio
You may be familiar with the adage, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never work a day in your life.”
Those of us blessed to passionately work in a beloved industry have likely paraphrased this once or twice, simply because our job can certainly feel that way at times. Mine happens to be in the toy industry and the saying certainly applies. As a toy designer and inventor, knowing that I have been part of making millions of children and adults happy the world over feels less like a “job” and certainly more like “enjoyment.” But what really makes the toy industry what it is are the people involved. The folks I interact with regularly as well as the new faces popping up in the industry over the years. The ecosystem of the toy industry is so vast, and there is so much to learn from one another. And, while articles, books, podcasts and interviews are certainly healthy and viable ways to expand your knowledge of the industry, it is the personal connections through face-to-face networking that truly open the doors. Ahead are five ways to improve your networking opportunities and experiences.
1) Social Media
For years, I kept a low profile on social media. But, as my career grew, I became more involved with industry groups like The Toy Association and People of Play. People I had never met started reaching out to me via LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. At first, I was a little surprised by people reaching out on these personal platforms. I initially believed that Facebook and Instagram were more personal in nature than, say, LinkedIn. To me, LinkedIn was the proper place to conduct business. However, after a few pleasant experiences, it didn’t take long for me to embrace business and industry contacts on Facebook and Instagram. In fact, I ended up meeting a great many more terrific and important people from many areas of the toy industry. Friends of friends. Tags. It’s a wealth of exposure and opportunities for you to investigate. That said, I still find LinkedIn to be the very best of the best place to network in the toy industry. There are many great toy industry people of influence on LinkedIn who share a ton of great insights and I find all of them to be very approachable.
2) Trade Shows
Finally, the world is starting to open back up to trade shows. It’s hard to believe that the last time our industry came together was in February 2020 at New York Toy Fair. It feels like yesterday and lifetime ago at the same time. I am very excited to get back on the convention hall carpets with a good pair of shoes. And while we may or may not be so quick to shake hands or hug each other, at least we’ll all have plenty to talk about. Discussing 2020 will be the perfect icebreaker for those who may find themselves having trouble starting a conversation. And with a possible (and likely) low attendance for the next one, there will no doubt be plenty of people willing to shoot the gab and pass the time.
3) Party Like a Rock Star (just be in bed by 11 p.m.)
I admit, a few times I have woken up with some serious regrets after partying. On the other hand, I’ve also woken up to a realization that I landed a promising job with a new client or lucrative deal with a reputable company while at the bar the night before. Industry parties and social events can be a perfect place to meet people. Generally, they are relaxed, in good spirits (pun intended), and feeling comfortable in the company of industry friends, peers, and fellow acquaintances. Remember, their guard may be somewhat down, but they are there to advance their opportunities as well. Everyone wants to succeed, or build on their success even more. Talking business is par-for-the-course and you’ll find industry folks, across all success tiers, are open and gracious about speaking to new people. Just make sure that you’re not too lubricated, or you may regret that first meeting. (This tip comes from a friend).
The toy industry is very fortunate to have great events like People Of Play (POP) Week. People Of Play Week is nearly one entire week of high-ranking industry executives, inventors, designers, buyers, and all-around toy gurus who gather to talk about our particular industry areas and experiences. You can truly learn a lot and it will likely be one of the quickest weeks of your life! If you’re an outsider looking and wanting in, POP may just be your ticket to meeting the major decision-makers in the toy industry.
5) Don’t Kiss Ass
Lastly, while I’m not here to give you actual tips on how to win friends or influence others, I would like to say: Just be yourself! This is really important. Don’t force anything. Don’t “kiss ass.” Most people can see right through that, especially the experienced professional or executive. Also, don’t patronize someone in an attempt to win them over. It is disingenuous and also easy to detect by those you may be trying (too hard) to impress. You don’t have to be friends with everyone, especially in an early stage. That comes later in a working relationship (or not). I’m not “great friends” with everyone I do work for. But we do trust each other to be honest and be ourselves and speak freely. Find the crowd that fits you best and the rest will follow …they, and only they, can help you find that job that you enjoy doing, and one where you’ll never work a day in your life.
Matt Nuccio is president of Design Edge, a New York-based graphic design and research development studio. For more information, he can be reached at Matt@DesignEdge.net.
This article appeared in the August 2021 issue of TFE Magazine.