• Working Smarter Guide: Career Development


Networking is about connecting to individuals and companies that are within, or connected to your industry. It is about being known for the work that you do, as well as knowing others – their work practices and approaches to making work, and how these might connect with your own work. The act of networking is diverse; including socialising, inviting individuals to see your work and seeing the work of others.

  • Join your professional organisations and sign up to their newsletters, events and social media.
  • Subsidised companies have regular opportunities for meeting new creatives, so don’t be afraid to write to the company’s artistic director to make an appointment.
  • Invite your network to see your own work.
  • See as much work by others as you can, and follow up personally if you sense a potential professional connection.

Key Links

Tips and Tricks

  • ‘If there is a company or director that you really want to work with, reach out to the designers that work with them. Your relationship with that designer can act as a personal introduction to the company or director’
  • ‘Don’t forget to nurture your designer peer group – mine has been a wonderful  support and point of reference right through my career’
  • ‘Alumni peer groups need an organiser to keep them useful – this could be you’
  • ‘Connect with companies and individuals by building genuine rapport without expecting work opportunities’
  • ‘Personally invite people to see your work’
  • ‘The professional peers I most naturally keep in contact with (because they are my friends) really are my network; I’m just as likely to get work through my friendship with an actor, or a composer, or another designer as I am by conventional networking’
  • ‘When I had my portfolio and website ready, I wrote to every company, director, artistic director, producer I could find contact details for. I sent out 30 emails, and felt happy to get 5 replies. One of these was my first job’
  • ‘It took me a while to work out which groups and newsletters were really useful for me’
  • ‘When you see a show and you love the direction or design, get in touch and let them know’
  • ‘Joining an APDG committee can help strengthen your network with fellow designers, it is also quite satisfying to know you are contributing to improving your industry’
  • ‘Reach out to those you admire to build your network.  Make sure it is an actionable email that they can respond to. Their time is precious, so start with 1 or 2 smaller, easily answerable questions rather than 20.Chances are, they will respond’
  • ‘A lot of work comes from other designers passing on your details when they are busy on another job – so keep your network active!’
  • ‘Set up Google Alerts to local industry events, theatre or screen news, funding announcements etc.’


Many designers find a mentor an invaluable support at different stages of their career. A mentor may be a professional peer who you use informally as a sounding board or may be a more formal relationship. The MENTORAPDG program is a scheme tailored to placing young and emerging live performance and screen designers in a supported mentoring relationship with senior designers over a 12 month period.

Various government and NGOs have focused mentoring programs:


An award nomination or win can be a great boost to your confidence and may make a difference to how your work is noticed and future work prospects. Industry award events are also a great way to network and share your professional experiences with your peers. Awards can be a way of measuring your professional standing against your peers.

Try these:


By keeping our skills current we are able to make our work more efficient and enjoyable. By maintaining our professional qualifications we remain competitive. Short digital training courses can advance our skills. These are called ‘microcredentials’ and are the future of learning, and most offer certification. Improve our grasp of software updates, or be a real breakthrough with a program that we have ‘learned’ by trial and error. Professional development lectures or courses can build our business skills and help to develop our networks. Arts extension programs can provide intellectual and creative stimulation in areas of practice that can inform our own.

Don’t forget the APDG’s Dialogues in Design! A wonderful place to hear Australian designers and creatives talk about their work.

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