I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite things about the holiday season is making the rounds of all the holiday parties. It’s not just the abundance of goodies and all the opportunities to watch people stealing kisses under the mistletoe – there’s something about this time of year that makes people a little more festive…a tad bit jollier. Of course, another bonus of the holiday party season is all of the networking opportunities. Wait…did I just see some of you scowl?? Let me guess – these networking opportunities actually make you anxious because you don’t know how to take advantage of them in a way that feels natural. Am I right? Well, let’s do something about that and see if we can’t get you in shape to be a networking rock star this holiday season.
I’m out in Los Angeles again this week, and one thing I’m hearing from a lot of people here is that they find networking intimidating. This isn’t anything new — I’ve been hearing the same thing from my clients in New York for years. One of the main reasons that people seem to get intimidated by the process is that they feel like they have nothing to offer in a networking relationship, especially when they’re dealing with people in the industry who have a lot of influence or power. Well, fear not: I have just the thing to help with this.
In my last post, I mentioned that I had been hearing a lot of frustration from artists when it comes to networking and that this was due to confusion, intimidation, and feelings of inauthenticity when practicing it. Now, networking is such a huge topic that I actually devote two separate lessons to it in Artists In Action, so there's no way for me to cover it all in this blog. But, I do want to make it a little easier for you. I'd like to introduce you to two principals of authentic networking, both of which I've seen have a major impact on the way that my coaching clients network. The first principle is based on the idea of FARMING, NOT HUNTING.*
Most people actually think of networking as hunting – they have to find a target, hone in on it, and get their kill. “Must get agent now or will die!” This mentality has an air of desperation to it that’s frankly unattractive, uncomfortable for everyone involved, and feels forced and inauthentic. Instead, what if you thought about networking as farming? Your first response may be: Huh?? But take a moment and let that sink in.
When we approach networking from the farming perspective, it becomes all about planting seeds to grow relationships as opposed to sharpening your killer instinct. Farming your network means cultivating relationships with care and patience over time, which takes the pressure off of needing to instantly capture your target in order to see immediate results. Think about it — the relationships you have in your life were likely gained over a course of time rather than being instantaneous. So why should your business relationships be any different?
This principle reminds me of a class field trip we took to a fruit farm when I was a kid. The highlight of the trip was when we all went berry picking at the end, and we got to take home all of the berries we collected. I remember the farmers instructing us to ignore any berries that were eaten by bugs or had already fallen to the ground and were spoiled. We only wanted the good berries, and the thing about those good berries is that they were only ready to be picked when they were ready. They couldn’t be rushed or slowed down.
Let’s also consider that the farmers had planted those berries months or, in some cases, years before I ever went berry picking. So we can assume that when you’re farming, your crop is still growing while you’re doing other things. You obviously have to keep tending to it, but if you planted your seeds successfully, your crop will grow while you’re working elsewhere. But, if you’re hunting, you’re not seeing any results unless you are literally hunting. You can only hunt to be successful at hunting. If you were going in for a meeting with an agent and approached the meeting from a farming perspective instead of a hunting perspective, can you see how your expectations for that meeting would shift? Might you be able to relax a little more and focus on cultivating a relationship with that agent, realizing that the meeting itself is not the end of the road?
The great thing about farming when it comes to networking is that the approach should already feel natural to you. After all, it’s exactly how you interact with people every day of your life. Whether you realize it or not, you’re planting seeds on a regular basis, and you never know when the seeds of those relationships will bare fruit.
This next principle is a tough one for many artists -- the principle of ASKING FOR HELP.
You have to be more than willing to accept generosity, and oftentimes, you need to go out and ask for it. Until you become as willing to ask for help as you are to give it, you’re only working half the equation. In a perfect world, we’d all be able to achieve success without having to ask for help, but I guarantee that if you ask anyone that you consider to be successful how they got there, they would tell you it wasn’t on their own. At some point on their path to success, they had the courage to ask for help.
This is something you need to get comfortable with. I know too many artists who are afraid to reach out for help, because they’re afraid of being annoying or needy, but it doesn’t have to come down to that. Asking for help doesn’t mean giving up your dignity as long as you’re tactful in your request. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me, “Betsy, once I actually asked for it, it wasn’t that big a deal. I got it!”
The reality is that, in this industry, your relationships can have a major impact on your career and it's a solid bet that over the course of time you'll be asking for -- and giving -- help more times that you can count. It's part and parcel, so the best thing you can do is get comfortable with this practice and not be self-conscious about it. In all the years that I've been coaching, I've heard hundreds of stories where the simple yet courageous act of asking for help became the catalyst for artists reaching their goals.
These are only two of the ten principals of authentic networking that I teach in Artists In Action, but just implementing "Farming, Not Hunting" and "Asking For Help" into your networking process can have a major impact on the way that you network. The more you use them, the more natural they'll become to you, and the more authentic you'll feel when you network.
*credit to Larry Sharpe of Neo-Sage
As many of you know, this is the first week that Capes Coaching is venturing over to the West Coast and planting our flag in the L.A. soil (or, sand, since we hope to get some beach time in!). I can't tell you how excited I am for this — it's been a goal of ours for many years now. Since we were already going to be in California, we thought it would be the perfect time to take a family trip to San Diego beforehand and, much to my surprise, the timing turned out to be even more perfect than I'd imagined. As it happened, one of my very first (and favorite) coaching clients, Natalie Gold, was starring in the current run of Henry Wishcamper's Engaging Shaw at the Old Globe Theatre, and I can't tell you what a complete joy it was to see her performing on one of the most acclaimed theatre stages in the country. Add this to her recent turn as Jake Gyllenhaal's sister in last year's Love and Other Drugs and a recurring role on AMC's critically acclaimed show Rubicon, and it was easy to see that Natalie had a lot to be proud of. Of course, having coached her from the beginning, I knew that it wasn't always an easy road, but she had certainly earned the success that she's currently enjoying.
I first met Natalie in 2002 when I was working in the casting office at the Public Theater for Shakespeare in the Park. We cast her as a non-equity actor (of which they only allowed 2 or 3 in each production) and I remember the excitement in her voice when I called and offered her the role -- it was a big deal. Later, when we began coaching together, I remember sitting in the coaching room with someone who understood that it was going to take a lot of hard work and dedication to get to where she ultimately wanted to go. And I can tell you from first-hand experience that Natalie did the work and stayed the course even when the course wasn't always going her way. She set clearly defined goals for herself, honestly assessed her disappointments, didn't rest on her successes, and always brought a sense of authenticity and integrity to her work.
Anyone who has coached with me or has done the Artists In Action program knows that I am a staunch advocate for bringing your true self to the way you run your business. Nowhere is this as crucial as it is when it comes to networking, because your relationships will rise or fall based on whether or not people perceive you as being genuine -- someone they want to build a relationship with. Let me tell you, Natalie Gold is the real deal and, believe me, she's got the fans in this industry to prove it -- casting directors, writers, agents, producers, directors -- you name it, they're fans. She's brought that authenticity since day one, and I've seen her career climb steadily over the past decade as a result. Some years haven't climbed as rapidly as she would've like, I'm sure, but she's consistently reached the goals she set for herself…and continues to do so.
After I saw her last week, she said that it's been "Up and down. Up and down," but that she recognizes her accomplishments and has moved in the direction she wants to move in. Even more heartening, she revealed the invaluable role that our coaching together has played (and continues to play) in her career. Previously, she expressed to me, "I came to Capes Coaching at the height of my frustration with my career. You allowed me to turn my angst into motivation and my fear into courage." I can't tell you how gratifying it was to hear that, because, in a way, Natalie's growth as an actress has coincided with my growth as a coach. I will never forget the time she called to tell me that she booked her first national commercial…and then her first Law & Order…and then her first Broadway play. Now, she's with one of the top agencies and transitioning from stage to screen beautifully, and along the way she's continued to challenge herself and managed to maintain balance and grace in her life. I can't wait to see what's next!