relationships

And now for something completely different: authentic networking

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.*

American Gothic

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.

Help WantedYou 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

A surprising ally in your corner

Rocky and Mick "I need the actor as much as the actor needs me…I am only as good as the actor is." You may be surprised to hear it, but these are the words of one of New York City's top casting directors, Mele Nagler. Together with her casting partner, David Caparelliotis, Mele founded MelCap Casting whose tv/film credits include the CW's Gossip Girl, AMC's Rubicon, Showtime's Brotherhood, Edward Zwick's Love and Other Drugs (starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway) and the upcoming Stephen Daldry film, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock), while their Broadway credits include The House of Blue Leaves, Good People, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, and Fences.

• Listen: Casting Director Mele Nagler on the casting director/actor relationship

When I talked with Mele for our Artists In Action Guest Interview Series, she made it abundantly clear that the relationship between a casting director and an actor is not a one-way street. It may sound obvious once you hear it, but it can't be overstated -- a casting director's reputation and success is dependent upon the actors they cast. They want you to succeed. Why is this simple idea so important? Because I can't tell you how many times I've sat across from actors who were either scared to death of casting directors, or were just plain resentful of them. The general consensus seems to be that casting directors are these super-terrestrial beings who wield untold power over all the actors in the land. They're the enemy, predisposed to hate you like a never-satisfied Simon Cowell.

As Mele explains, this couldn't be further from the truth, and actors needs to understand this if they want to be successful in the casting room, because casting directors can spot a negative attitude the moment it walks in their door. Think of a casting session as if it were a job interview -- you want to present the best possible version of yourself that you can, and if you go into it feeling intimidated or bitter, that's going to taint your impression, no matter how talented you are. If you can look at casting sessions as opportunities to grow relationships, you'll be able to see casting directors as people who can help you rather than people who are out to get you. Trust me, as someone who's been on the other side of the table, I can tell you that a positive attitude goes a long way. Even if you're not right for the part you're auditioning for, you're far more likely to remain on a casting director's radar if you made a good personal impression. As Mele said: "You leave behind a wake; your behavior gets noticed."

A final word of advice from Mele: "There's all sorts of stuff that happens in that room…and I know it's disappointing when you don't get something you really want…But the thing that you need to remember, and that will aid you in getting up and going back into the room for that next job, is knowing that there are certain things that are just outside of your control. Decide what is IN your control and be really good at that."