Networking is an art form. There are several kinds of it, and thousands of different people to get to know in different ways in ANY given field. While I do network with different people every day, let me point out a couple of the greatest moments I’ve had business networking, and how you can do the same.
As an actor, I make every effort I can to connect with my favorite writers, actors, directors, etc. as often as possible. It’s been the cornerstone of my career since I began acting at the age of seventeen (just two years ago). From what I’ve observed countless times, most people don’t see results so quickly in their respective field, because they are afraid to bother people. While I totally relate to that, I fight it like crazy, because I know my ability to perform has certainly been — and should be — the main goal moving my career forward. The value of creating relationships with those who inspire me has been an almost-equal part in my success. Because I know what I’m capable of. I always look to meet new people at events, on social media, or even in places like the NYC subway, where I met one of my absolute favorite actors, Oliver Vaquer! I don’t do this just for me. I do this to create opportunities to work with someone special on a project. While elevating each other at the same time, I know I have something unique to bring to the table. With Oliver, we ended up connecting on Instagram and Twitter after our subway introduction, and in October, he accepted my nomination for the “Unify Selfie Challenge,” an anti-bullying social media campaign (somewhat similar to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge) I did with Zach Braff.
The fact is, I am writing for Thrive because of a conversation I had with Arianna Huffington. We were at a dinner for an organization called “Bridges of Understanding.” Arianna is such an inspiration to me; when I finally had the opportunity to meet her at this dinner, I (nervously) introduced myself, talked about her speech, talked about what I do, and after a brief conversation I’ll never forget when she said:
“I’d love for you to write for me.”
It was that simple. We e-mailed back and forth and here I am now as a weekly contributor for Thrive, trying to share whatever wisdom I can. That kind of initiative to connect with someone you admire is what creates reciprocity — two-way relationships that both can benefit from, as collaboration is better than competition. Literally ANYONE in ANY field can do the same thing with ANYONE who they admire! Don’t know where to start? If you are given the chance to meet someone who you look up to, follow my three steps-
1. Introduce yourself. “Hi, I’m ____.” Simple enough.
2. Don’t gush. I’ve done it before, and it’s low-key, creepy and unproductive. Instead start a real conversation about the person’s work, and ask questions! Talk like you would to a friend, but not a best friend. (Simple.)
3. Relate what they’ve done to what you are doing. Keep it brief, and simply offer to swap e-mails to keep in touch. Simple.
I promise you, if a working relationship is meant to form, those are the steps to set it in motion. You must truly believe you’ve got something special, something unique, to offer to them. Networking is a two-way street: don’t go begging for favors from them. COLLABORATE. Work diligently to show them what you have to offer to elevate them, as they’ll want to work with you and move you forward.
Originally published at medium.com