I know networking is important. Knowing it actually makes things worse for a hardcore introvert like me though, because even when it’s not “important”, I’m already nervous about striking up a conversation with a stranger because I am terrible at small talk and APPARENTLY IT’S POOR FORM TO GO DEEP RIGHT FROM THE GET GO.
Me: Hi, I’m Jay Posey, I just wanted to introduce myself and ask if you have ever thought about how what you’re doing with your life might actually be completely irrelevant and meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
Generous Celebrity: Hi, Jay, that’s a great question, and I think every artist struggles with that question from time to time.
Me: Here’s my card.
Generous Celebrity: Great, thanks.
(And then I snort/laugh awkwardly and a little bit of spit flips out of my mouth, catches my upper lip, and somersaults acrobatically onto my glasses. We each pretend this didn’t happen.)
That never actually happened of course (OF COURSE, I SAY), but that is literally the best case I can imagine.
For a while I kind of gave up on “networking” because I recognized I was really bad at it and all of the advice people gave me didn’t really help because it was too many things to remember when it came time to Network.
Be polite, but act important! Speak confidently! But don’t be confrontational! Eye contact! But don’t stare! Firm handshake! Now, quick, make small talk! No, not like that! Oh no, no, no, quick make a joke! No a funny one! Just laugh so they know you were joking! Aarrgh not the spit again! The card, give the card! EJECT EJECT!
And then (probably as most socially adept people naturally recognize) I learned a great lesson. I was actually more successful at “networking” the less I tried to do it!
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The crucial mistake I was making? I was networking as if I expected something from everybody.
I tended to gravitate to the people I thought had the most power to help me get where I was going (the same five people everyone else wanted to talk to), and I ignored the people I didn’t recognize (many of whom were awesome pros who didn’t feel it necessary to draw attention to themselves).
Getting That Movie Exec’s card, or meeting That Screenwriter, or talking to That Actor, or sitting next to That Creative Director, any one of those things could be my ticket! My ticket that would pay off instantly!! AND THEN GLORY AND RICHES AND THEN I AT LAST WILL COVER THE WORLD IN DARKNESS MUHAHAHAHAHA etc. etc.
Even Generous Celebrities get tired of people thinking of them as a stepping stone.
When you’re setting out to Network, just being kind, friendly, and generous and not expecting anything in return is a really great place to start.
It’s even better when you can be the person who connects two people who need each other to Make Things Happen, even when there’s literally nothing in it for you.
Maybe especially when there’s nothing in it for you.