What’s a gross word that means “meeting other people”? If you said networking, then you’re reading from the same dictionary I used to use! Networking can be an icky thing for many people, but it doesn’t have to be. We scare ourselves about it because we think it’s supposed to be a bunch of phony small-talk when in fact it’s about making a human connection.
Networking is a very important part of your creative career so, stop calling it networking and start calling it “connecting” or “making a new friend.” That’s already an improvement, right? That small but mighty change should shift your mindset and help you think about it in a less intimidating way. Plus, there’s even more you can do to remind yourself that, at its core, networking is just about connecting, plain and simple.
1. Strive to make one genuine connection.
When you go out into the world, be it a cocktail party or standing in line at a book signing, experience one moment with another human being where things get a little real like staying present in a moment of total awkwardness. I know this runs contrary to what you’ve probably been taught, but humans are by their very nature super awkward. If you actively choose to hold space for a stranger who just spilled a bunch of queso on her dress at a party, you can be sure you’ll have forever crossed the threshold from potentially judgemental stranger to rock- solid cool ally.
2. Be the best wing man they forgot to bring.
You know how your acting teacher is always telling you to listen to your partner? Well, here’s another prime opportunity. Make your experience about the other person! Too often, we go to an event with the intent to impress, look cool, or prove our worth. Sure, you’re cool and you’re worthy, but so is everyone else. You don’t make connections because of what you’re wearing or who you name drop. You make connections by being interested in the people you meet. Say hi first! Ask a ton of questions. And then brag about your new friend to everyone you meet!
3. Try not to worry about what they’re thinking or what they do.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what may or may not be going through the other person’s brain while you’re talking to them. Remind yourself that what they think about you is really none of your business. Whether or not they can “do something” for your acting career is none of your business either. Drop that narrative and just have a conversation.
4. Just go.
I know your brain will find a hundred reasons to stay home and binge the latest season of “Insecure.” What if you don’t know anyone? What if nobody wants to talk to you? You’re going to “what if” yourself into a coma before you even turn on the TV. Just take a deep breath and do your best to divorce yourself from expectation. You don’t know what’s going to happen at this event. Ignite your curiosity so you’re paying attention and open to different possibilities. When you do, you’re far less likely to feel overwhelmed by the fear of how you’ll be perceived which, fun reminder, is none of your business anyway!
5. Have fun and stay curious.
Focus on what’s fun about the event. Maybe you’ve never been to the venue before. Maybe one of your favorite writers is there. Maybe the catering is off the hook. Focus on any of those positive things and you’re guaranteed to have a great time. Go to these events the way you went to birthday parties as a kid—with a sense of wonder.
You’ll be amazed how quickly your thoughts about networking will begin to shift when you follow these practices. Remember to make the people you’re meeting more important than your narrative of nervous or negative thoughts and just get out there and make a connection with a new friend!