So, how does the process work? Where do you go to meet new people? How do you get them to help you in your career endeavors? Successful networking is an art form unto itself and there are four key factors that you should keep in mind as you hone your networking skills:
- Have a Goal:
Before you begin networking, you need to determine what it is that you're hoping to get. You want to create a 10-15 second "elevator pitch" (which refers to the ability to state your goal in the time it would take to ride in an elevator) on exactly what it is that you're looking for. Have an idea of what your career path might look like and be able to express it in a concise and efficient manner.
- Be Specific:
Once you know what you want your career path to look like, then stay the course. Do you want to be a director? Then when people ask you what you want to do, you state it -- "I want to be a director." Believe it and be confident in that statement. Also, be specific to the entertainment job that excites you. You will speak to it with passion. Stay away from general phrases like, "I just want to work in the industry." Understand that by labeling yourself with a particular career goal, you open (and close) windows of opportunity for the people you're networking with to help you. By stating you hope to be a director someday, you might just get a response such as, "Oh yeah? My uncle is Francis Ford Coppola -- I can probably set up a meeting if you'd like."
Tip: Keep in mind that in the entertainment industry you have a number of people who are extremely busy (or so they say) and short on time and patience. Dealing with someone who comes off as wishy-washy about their career goals will do nothing more than annoy and irritate.
- Create Your Own Networking Events:
There are the obvious networking events such as film festivals, guild screenings and entertainment related classes, but they are often few and far between. So, you might consider hosting your own networking event. If your place is too small or your budget too tight, consider partnering up with a friend or two. Host a dinner, lunch, coffee gathering or even a Sunday brunch event. Invite everyone you know and have them invite the people they know. Free food is often more than enough of an incentive. You'll be pleasantly surprised by not only the number of people that will show up to your event, but also the quality of contacts. You might not meet Jerry Bruckheimer at your event, but maybe one of his assistants might be invited by someone you know.
In an industry where over 75% of all job openings go to those already on the "inside," you can see why networking is a key ingredient to your success. Learn it, love it, master it.