Networking is the most powerful asset you can pick up over the course of your career. There’s a reason people say, “It’s all about who you know” in Hollywood. And it’s not to make your eyes roll. It’s because it’s true.
Hollywood is risk averse. A person in a position of power is less likely to entrust a job or large sums of money to a stranger than an individual who has been vouched for by someone they know. You could be just as qualified as this person, but they are alumni of the same school, someone’s cousin, the former employee of a friend, etc… And nepotism was born. Maybe you can operate outside of the system, but if you’re trying to prepare yourself for any possibility, networking is a skill that you need to learn how to do and do well.
Don’t panic! There are multiple ways to network: mixers, meet-ups, joining organizations, volunteering, drinks, events, etc… You will find which method you like and excel at doing. I personally loathe mixers and like one-on-one drinks. But mixers might have been the height of your social sphere in college, so you love it. There isn’t a right or wrong way to go about meeting people – just constantly grow your network.
By setting networking goals, you’re strengthening not just a skill set, but a navigation tool that will help you build the community and resources you need to move your career forward. I’m also hoping that you help people whenever you can along the way. If you know what it is to struggle, you understand that a little kindness goes a long way. Networking is not easy or intuitive to everyone. The best thing you can do is to go in with clear objectives.
Think hard on what you want out of your networking experiences. Usually people are either trying to strengthen their existing network within the position they currently hold or they hope to leave their job and try something else. As writers, we want to foster connections with a range of people in positions to help us achieve our writing goals. Everyone wants something. The people you’re talking to want something. That can be overwhelming.
Viewing other networkers in the immediacy of “what can you do for me right now?” is a huge turn off. You’re laying a foundation. Give people your full attention when you talk to them. This goes for networking events too. When someone’s jittery and looking over your shoulder for the next-best-thing, it creates a bad impression and it doesn’t feel good to you – so don’t do it to other people. It will happen, so brush it off and move on. Stay focused on why you’re there. Connect with people.
Network with your peers, but don’t be afraid to network with people in positions above yours. Ask someone you admire if you can buy them a coffee and ask them questions about their experience in the entertainment industry. You’ll gain insight, advice, and a connection that you’ll continue to grow.