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Do You NEED to be Good at Networking?

Nancy has a question about networking:1

Thinking of switching from medical office work to office work in the film industry.

From what I’ve been reading online (mostly from this site – you’ve been quite a valuable resource), it sounds like you only get jobs if the right people remember your name when jobs come up. I’m quite shy and not good at self-promotion, it would come across as obviously looking for a favour if I tried to make small talk with the right people. Not to mention how uncomfortable it would make me feel.

Would an office job directly with the studio be a way to avoid this? I assume that’s a steady job whether there’s a production going on or not.

Also, I’m in Vancouver and was wondering what websites you could recommend for local productions/studios/filming info.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you ask), there’s really no area in the film business where networking isn’t important. Studio executives have a notoriously short shelf life. If you’re an assistant to an exec who just ankled, you better hope you have a network of people who can help you find your next gig.

If you’re like me and find networking a bit overwhelming, there’s a solution:

Don’t Think of It as Networking

Don’t approach any situation as “networking.” That’s just a buzzword some business guru made up to sell books. Instead, think of it as “making friends.”

The easiest way to not appear as if you’re looking for a favor is to not look for a favor. When you meet someone, ask them about their job, their career, their life. People love talking about themselves. Weirdly, if you’re a good listener, people think you’re a good conversationalist.

The Right People

There are no “right people” to talk to. Make friends with everyone! Be the friendliest person on set. Get to know everyone’s name. (This part is really important.)

If I wanted to be cynical, I could tell you that everyone will be the “right person” eventually. A PA today could be a director tomorrow. The front desk assistant will be an executive by the end of the month. And that sound guy knows a production designer who really needs a graphic designer next week.

To be more magnanimous, you might be the right person for someone else, without even knowing it. Nancy, for instance, works in the medical field. Maybe there’s a question on set, and the medical advisor is 10-1. She could be the one to save the day with the right answer at the right time.

If you treat everyone as important (because they are), you won’t ever come across as a brown nose who only sucks up to the big wigs.

Shyness

None of this is easy, but it’s particularly hard for someone who’s shy. How do you start a conversation with a stranger, whether on set or at a networking event?

I’m no expert, but I’m a huge fan of Charisma on Command. Some of you might be turned off by the sheer YouTubeyness of these videos, but stick with it. There is some really great information in here.

How to Find a Job in Vancouver

No idea. Any of my readers have advice for a local starting out in the Great White North?

Hollywood Assistant Networking Event

Since we are talking about networking, now’s a good time to remind you of the TAPA networking event on March 31st. In addition to meeting a whole bunch of new friends, you’ll have the opportunity to ask some questions of our panel of experts. Guests including Academy Award-nominated director Tim Reckart, literary manager Jethro Rothe-Kushel, and VFX supervisor Geoff Mark.

Click here to buy your tickets. The event is being held at the With Love Market & Cafe. Doors open at 6:00pm. Hope to see you there!

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. I know this sounds self-serving, since I’m trying to promote my networking event right now, but I promise, I just got this email a few days ago.
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