We all know the cliché: Hollywood is a soulless mecca of slick opportunists, corporate vampires, and vapid artists — a place where people speak a morally questionable language consisting of either half-truths or downright lies. And to the average American, this stereotype likely extends beyond the borders of Hollywood to any corner of the entertainment industry. As The X-Files bluntly put it: "Trust no one."
I'm sure I don't need to tell you that Mad Men is back — the news is pretty much everywhere these days. I, for one, am beyond excited; the last two Draper-less years have amounted to what I like to call "The Dark Ages" (saved from total ruin by one of my new favs — Homeland — and reruns of one of my olds favs — The West Wing). But even if you're not a fan of the show, there are a lot of wonderful career lessons that you can take from it and apply to your career in the arts. Don't believe me? Then stick around as we look at 5 Career Lessons From Mad Men.
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
Between the last couple of seminars we did in New York and the one we did earlier this week here in Los Angeles, one thing is clear: artists of all kinds are struggling with networking. This is nothing new, of course. In fact, from the moment I started coaching, networking was a topic that people were tentative about. They were intimidated by the prospect of having to get out there and meet people; they were confused about the best way to make a lasting impression; and they were hesitant to engage in something that felt "dirty" to them because they had to schmooze. These concerns still rampantly exist in the artistic community, generally because most artists are predisposed to have an innate sense of craft that often comes at the expense of understanding how to get it out there into the world. In my next blog post, I'm going to address some ways that you can get in touch with your inner networker and make the experience one that comes more naturally to you. But before I do so, I'd love to hear about your networking experiences. What aspects of networking pose a particular challenge to you? Are you having trouble figuring out where to meet people? Do you struggle with follow-ups? Does the process feel inauthentic? Whatever it is, I want to hear it.
On the flip side, where are you specifically finding success? Are you a natural people person? Do you have an efficient organization system for your contacts? Are you simply excited by the prospect of networking? Drop us a line in the comments and give us the scoop. And if you have any friends who are struggling or having a lot of success with networking, send them our way so they can share their stories with us.
Networking can be such a frustrating topic to deal with and if you find this to be true, trust me, you're not alone. My goal is to demystify the process and help you find some light at the end of the tunnel. Hope to hear from you!