Depending on where you are on your career path, networking may be something you have yet to encounter, and may need a little help in understanding. Networking is a social device that serves a business purpose. Regardless of your anxiety at putting yourself into large (or small) social gatherings, mingling with strangers, and having to “talk shop”, networking is something all creatives will have to undertake at some point, if they want their careers to progress forward. The goal of any networking opportunity is to build a contact list of potential/hopeful business associates, people who can help you advance your career, perhaps become a mentor, someone you might be able to work on a project with, and in turn, those you might be able to help with your portfolio of work, or when you move up your ladder.
And depending on where you live, like L.A., every new relationship could be a potential networking opportunity. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “six degrees of separation” (there’s a game involving Kevin Bacon), it’s the idea that all people in the world can be connected through just six people, and this has never proven more true than in Los Angeles. Let me give you a little example of one of my “six degrees”. Let’s say I want to connect with dreamy Tom Hiddleston. (You know what that means…picture time!) My sister knows an attorney who represents a man who’s father worked on The Avengers. Only four people stand between us. Then Hiddles to the lovely Benedict Cumberbatch – five. Actually three, if I take another route. And back to Hiddles would still be four. You get the idea. So let’s put this into a business perspective. Any executive, producer, publisher, what-have-you is only a few people away, if you can figure out the path. So every time I meet someone new, I put on my best face, pull out the best conversation skills I have (both speaking and listening), talk about my work and theirs, and then give them my card (and hopefully receive one in return). This is how you start building your rolodex (yes, that’s an old school term) or contact list.
It is after this initial meeting that you must take the next important step, the “follow up”. Depending on how your conversation advanced, you may need to send a sample of your work, you may just want to say “it was nice meeting you”, if other information was exchanged, a “thank you” might be in order. The point of the follow up is to keep you fresh in their mind. Now this is something to bear in mind – don’t abuse the connection. This new contact you made could be in a wonderful position to help your career, but you don’t want to turn them off by bombarding them with calls or emails. Tread lightly. Allow them ample time to reply, taking into consideration their busy daily lives. It’s easy to become overeager when faced with the prospects of advancement, when those six degrees have been narrowed down to two or one, but business is business. Treat each new contact with respect, honesty, and professionalism, so that your reputation grows as someone people want to know and work with.
My previous post was on positivity, and I believe that works in conjunction with networking. Even if you don’t feel it when you’re surrounded by strangers in a new environment, staying positive and being friendly is infectious. People are drawn to good vibes, and even if it’s a temporary façade, do your best to maintain it in public and who knows who you’ll meet. I try to keep this in mind every time I leave the house, in particular, because I recently met one of my neighbors who is also a director and we’re meeting for coffee next week. Who knows where the connection will lead, but if I want my career to go to the next level, I have to be open to the possibilities.
I hope this was helpful, and as always, I wish you all the best of luck!