Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Networking for actors ...

I was going to post another "Acting Tools" type post about tech networking tools I use on the toy job front and how they can be used for acting, when I realized I should probably back up and talk about networking in general, first.

So, this is also a soapbox post. You've been warned.

Networking is a pretty harped-on skill set for any vertical market; acting is no exception. Networking helps me figure out what opportunities are out there. Networking creates opportunities for other people.

I used to be really good at networking. I mean, really good. A few years ago, on both the high tech and acting fronts, you would have been hard pressed to not find me everywhere. Sometimes, I was at different places at the same time. Seriously, I was that good.

But then I stopped doing it.


Because I honestly didn't like how good I was at networking. I got into situations and saw people doing the networking thing, and they weren't sincere. They were looking at opportunities for themselves, and didn't give a damn about the people they were meeting. They were superficial. They were exploiters. They were users.

I so didn't want to be them.

So I did sort of an over-correction. Scaled back. Took some time for me. Worked on the relationships I'd built, and the relationships I wanted to build. Met people through people I knew, and met some wicked cool folks. It nicely coincided with some life stuff and me being just generally tired.

It's not like I was working any less as an actor. On the contrary, I was working harder as I was still busting my tail (yes, I have a tail) on the marketing, training, craft, performance, and business side of the Biz.

And then, some time after my "over correction", I came to a realization that I wasn't "that guy", and I got back to focusing on networking that makes sense for me. Contrary to how that sounds, that's not selfish networking. I call it "mutually beneficial relationship building" (which should be redundant, but unfortunately isn't") -- networking that fits in with my personality and style and values.

Here's how it works for me.

I meet someone, and we talk. I find out what they do, what they'd like to do, and what makes their day worthwhile. And I talk about what I do, what I'd like to do, and what makes my day worthwhile. And we figure out if we've got stuff we want to do together that makes our days worthwhile together.

That's right, kids, we have a conversation.

And then, independent of whether we can do something together, I try to keep that person in mind when opportunities come up for them, even if there's no benefit to me.

And here's where it gets a little ... weird.

Just like I'm good at networking, I'm also good at recognizing opportunities. I was at a networking gig a couple of weeks ago, and as a room full of people talked about what they wanted professionally, little light bulbs were going off left and right (up and down?) in my brain, and I saw opportunities for them with relationships I'd built, and I got that information to those people, made introductions with other people, and so on.

Oddly, lately, people have been complaining about this.

Why? Because they're sure I have an "angle".

It got back to me recently that a group of folks had made me the topic of conversation as they were trying to figure out how I benefited from the things I'd tried to facilitate for them individually.

How sad.

I mean, I guess it is a little weird.

I had a company approach me recently for a job. I then met someone who was looking for the same kind of job for which I'd been sought out, and I pointed him to the company, told him to research them, and if he was interested, I'd get him in touch with my contact. In essence, I was bringing a competitor in for a job I had a shot at.

But you need to understand where my heads at. I genuinely like helping people. I like solving problems, and seeing opportunities and synergies and acting on those is solving a problem, with better bennies (helping people). And I don't care about competition, because my competition (professionally or acting or running or whatever) is me. No one else.

And I feel convicted that knowingly keeping someone from a gig of any kind is tantamount to fixing a game or throwing a fight -- it's not a legitimate win.

Now I'm rambling.

The net-net is I think networking -- really effective networking -- shouldn't be exploitative "what can you do for me" usury. It should be relationship building. It should be mutually beneficial. And when it's not mutually beneficial, it should be beneficial for the other person.

If everyone had that mentality, what kind of cool world would this be?

Hmph. Time for me to go hug a seal.

I warned you this would be a soapbox.

Maybe tomorrow I'll do the tools post ...

No comments: