“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
It’s almost impossible to count how many times this proverbial phrase has been repeatedly instilled in me at a very young age. As someone who stubbornly believes in hard work and self-sufficiency in achieving success, this mindset never quite sat right with me. But this all instantly changed when I got into show business.
From film school to work, networking was not just some kind of extracurricular activity, but an essential part of the job. A huge responsibility of mine is to regularly attend high-profile networking events and red carpet premieres where I get to rub elbows with some of the best and brightest in Hollywood. The relationships I’ve built so far have turned into fruitful collaborations, mentorships, as well as work opportunities, and key people I would otherwise have no access to if it weren’t for my connections.
The entertainment industry has a culture that thrives on networking
The entertainment industry has a culture that thrives on networking. Those people who find it hard to break in often blame their lack of talent or abilities, when in fact, the only thing lacking was their effort in building a respectable network of people who could help them get into the right rooms and eventually push their career to greater heights. Let’s break down the basics of networking and why it has been a proven approach to land the job of your dreams.
The Human Connection
Networking in its essence is “the process of building relationships and finding support amongst your peers, potential colleagues, or other important professional figures” who are working in the same or other industries. It aims to connect people and provide a conducive environment for them to discuss shared interests, employment opportunities, build professional and personal relationships, and mentorship prospects, via Masterclass.
In more traditional times, networking was done face-to-face either through conventions, events, or intimate get-togethers. After the internet came into the picture, networking become more accessible and slowly shifted to a hybrid setting and people were given more opportunities to connect with people from all over the world. When the pandemic disrupted physical gatherings, the culture of networking fully transformed and transitioned to the virtual space. All of a sudden, networking events over Zoom and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn became the norm. Not to mention, prestigious film festivals such as Sundance created a space for filmmakers to join virtual rooms that mimic the networking culture and experience that one would have at an in-person event.
When the pandemic disrupted physical gatherings, the culture of networking fully transformed and transitioned to the virtual space
Cultivating mutually beneficial relationships in our professional lives is vital because it gives us a competitive edge over our peers when it comes to finding opportunities in the job market. These relationships have a personal impact on us and they influence the way we choose the people who get a shot at the opportunity; even if they are not exactly the most fitting candidate. While there are obviously ethical issues attached to this approach, the reason why it’s still a proven practice is the simple fact that there’s already a sense of trust attached to the people who we are familiar with, and we don’t have to go through the rigorous process of getting to know someone’s background or context. However, this argument is for a completely separate conversation.
The Basics of Networking
Whether it’s a house party, coffee meeting, red carpet event, or video call, you must take advantage of any opportunity where you can meet people in your respective field. Here are some of the ways on how you can utilize networking events and what you need to prepare in order to bring your A-game.
If you’re pursuing a career in entertainment, chances are you already know how life could often feel like a never-ending pitch fest. Anyone you meet will undoubtedly ask you right off the bat what kind of work you do, and while it may seem like a no-brainer question, it’s actually one of the hardest questions to answer. The reason why we freeze or stumble on our words is that we overlook the fact that we must carefully prepare our responses beforehand. Just like a job interview, you only have a minute or so to make a good first impression to someone you want to connect with. An effective one-liner or elevator pitch of who you are and what you do should contain buzzwords that would instantly capture, encapsulate, and enthuse the person to invest in what you have to offer. So, take your time in discovering your strengths, unique selling points, and letting your personality shine through.
The whole point of networking events is to get yourself out there. Therefore, to reap the benefits of networking, it is imperative that you show up where it is necessary. It doesn’t matter whether you live in a bustling city or a small town, there are both face-to-face and virtual networking events that are happening around the world. Some of the immediate places to find like-minded people are in film festivals, premiere screenings with Q&As, entertainment websites, social media, and entertainment Facebook groups. Whether it’s a big or small event, there is always something that you can get out of it. There are so many success stories from Hollywood professionals who made it big in the industry simply because they showed up and seized the opportunity . If you live in Los Angeles, the entire city is absolutely yours for the taking.
Helping When You Can
The beauty of networking is establishing mutually beneficial relationships. If you are in the position to help your peers even without being asked, take the liberty to do so because you will always be remembered for the kindness and generosity you’ve shown them. Whether it’s offering your services or referring a colleague to work on a film project, a little help goes a long way especially when the time comes that you might be needing theirs. The important thing to remember is to genuinely help people for the right reasons and not because you want to take advantage of their resources. The relationship you build should have a positive impact on each other’s lives above all.
Keeping In Touch
Networking events aren’t just a one-time thing or overnight process. The connections you make at these professional gatherings must continuously be nurtured to build trust and credibility. Just like any long-term relationship, it takes months or years to get to know each other and it would require constant effort to let them know how much you value them. Gestures such as sending a quick email, message, or phone call, asking them to catch up over lunch, commending their latest work, or even reacting to their social posts show that you are not just a valuable peer but also a good-willed human being who respects and appreciates other people succeeding in their respective careers.
Networking is not rocket science by any means, so anyone could certainly benefit from this powerful practice as long as we have the right mindset, initiative, and willpower to overcome our inhibitions. Building valuable and lasting connections don’t happen overnight, so do not be discouraged if your efforts are not paying off yet. It’s worth remembering that most of the biggest opportunities of our careers present themselves if only we just step out of our comfort zone. Based on experience, the ones who successfully break into the industry are not usually the smartest people in the room, but those who consistently show up, speak up, and stand up for themselves. Having the necessary skills and talent can only get you so far, but your personality and how well you connect with others will get you on the map.