The Career Coach: Networking Increases Your Net Worth

Networking is one of the best skills to have when it comes to finding and keeping a job. Pamela Kleibrink Thompson explains how.

pam.gif Pamela Kleibrink Thompson

"I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow." --Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States

President Wilson recognized the value of networking and the truth that behind every successful person there are other people.

What exactly is networking? Networking is establishing relationships and maintaining them. Basically it's staying in touch with contacts, friends you've made, and calling them when you need help or information, or helping them with information, referrals or mentoring when they call you.

Networking can help you in both your career and personal life. Your network can help you get whatever you need -- a promotion, a new job, a new client, a place to live, a mate. Ask people for referrals to doctors, florists, caterers, mechanics.

Like every business, the entertainment business is built on relationships. Those who advance quickly in a career recognize that working hard is only one requirement for success. What you do is important, who you know equally so, and who knows you is more critical still. Most jobs in the entertainment industry are never advertised. Often they are filled by a friend of a friend. Friends of friends is exactly what a network is. Help them and they will help you.

I recently got a message in a fortune cookie -- "A wise man knows everything. A shrewd one, everybody." That message is the essence of networking. No matter what you do in the entertainment arena, networking is key. Make networking a habit.

Don't be reticent about talking to other people. There is a lot of competition out there for jobs but often the person who gets the job is the one people know. The more people you know and network with, the better the chances you'll hear of job openings. Go to lunch with friends who work at places you'd like to work. Meet them at their office so you can check it out. Ask them about the company and projects that may be in the works. Keep aware of what your friends are doing and let them know how you are.

You've heard it before. To get a good job in the entertainment industry, you have to know someone. But that's okay, because you do know someone. And that someone knows someone. If you have enough "someones" in your network, you can get a good job.

Networking helps not only to hear about jobs but it can also help you get an advance notice of a layoff. If you network with people in different departments at your company, you can get a good idea if the company is doing well.

Tips

Here are some networking tips to try out at the next function you attend:

  • If you have trouble getting started, think of it as a game. Make a goal of meeting at least 2 people at the next party or meeting you attend. Years ago I went to a party with 3 friends, one of whom issued us all a challenge. Our assignment: to meet 5 people. Instead of hanging around together, we went off in all directions and reported back the results. We had all met 5 different people -- so now our network had expanded by 20!

  • If you are painfully shy, go to events with someone who is good at networking. He or she will take you around and introduce himself or herself and you to someone new.

  • Listen and learn. If you have little to contribute to a particular conversation, concentrate on learning the names and interests of the others.

  • If you forget someone's name, admit it and reintroduce yourself. If you dread doing that, and you have a friend with you, reintroduce yourself to the person and then introduce your friend. Then pause so the person can introduce himself.

  • Be prepared to meet people, follow up and keep in touch. Bring plenty of business cards and exchange them with everyone.

  • In a group made up of strangers and acquaintances, talk to someone you don't know. Once you introduce yourself to a stranger, he or she is now an acquaintance and could be part of your network.

  • You have something in common with everyone. Make it your goal to find out what it is. This is fairly easy to do at any animation event. Everyone at an event has a common interest.

  • The most important thing about networking is to be prepared to give before you get. Find out what you can do for someone else. Perhaps someone is having back trouble (not uncommon in the animation industry!) and you know a good chiropractor or acupuncturist. Be ready to lend a hand and hands will reach out to help you when you need it.

  • Make it a goal in 2002 to meet two new people a day and build your network. The more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it.

  • Don't keep what you want a secret. Tell people what you are looking for -- ask them for help.

  • Never whine, gossip or speak badly of a fellow artist or employer. Be nice to everyone. It's a small world, especially in the entertainment industry.

  • You don't have to wait for an event to try networking. Form a relationship with people in charge -- go to lunch with the boss. Network with people on other projects at your company. Network with people from other companies too. Your next job may come from one of them.

Pamela Thompson is a career coach, recruiter, business consultant and mentor for hire. She depends on networking in everything she does. As a career coach, she helps clients focus on and attain career goals. She speaks regularly at colleges and international conferences.

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