The Importance of Giving in a Networking World

“Networking” was possibly one of the first terms I heard when I started in the entertainment industry, first as an actor, later as a dancer. Regardless of your role in the artistic field, it is not uncommon for this subject to spark a conversation, especially amongst young artists. It is undeniably important to be able to network in order to expand the influence of your craft. But what distinguishes those who organically build relationships from those who struggle with this idea? And why is it important to recognize that this skill exists separately from your craft?

Over the past few years, the question “How can I network sharper and smarter?” has been posed to me countless times, almost as if networking was some sort of mathematical formula. I became aware, quite early on, that most people see networking solely as a means to advance their career. This idea is not only flawed, but it won’t serve you. The dynamics of exchange are incomplete if your sole purpose is to further your own career without any regard for others’ growth alongside yours. The confusion surrounding this subject seems to stem from the belief that your worth is solely dictated by how far you get and not by the path you take, generally dismissing the importance of being a team player and presupposing that your talent alone will carry you to success.

The way we relate to each other is constantly evolving, and the old “Hi, my name is Carlos. Please book me,” is no longer enough to satisfy the expectations of a professional exchange. Hence, working on becoming a genuine human being is just as important as working on your networking skills. Putting it simply, one is the other. After years of experiencing professional relationships, I’m convinced one cannot discuss this topic without approaching sensitive issues linked to how we treat each other as fellow artists and what we are willing to sacrifice for our goals.

So, how many times have you met an incredibly talented individual who, somehow, never got to achieve a degree of success that proportionally matches his or her abilities? This may very likely be the result of improper networking or the inability to recognize the significance of others in the filed. This statement may sound harsh, but it’s important nonetheless. An essential part of the game—and one that most fail to grasp—is to be willing to sacrifice for others and expect nothing in return. That’s just the way it is. On this note, I urge you to read Keith Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone.” It will change your life.

One of the most self-destructive mindsets and, unfortunately, one that I witness on a daily basis is an elitist approach to the art form you chose to study. This is the No. 1 enemy of healthy networking, and a big reason a great deal of artists struggle to create sound professional bonds.

Being able to appreciate solely the best of the best and connecting only with those who you believe are at the highest level or represent the current trend can be very damaging to your career. It shows you are not acknowledging the passing of time and growth of the industry in which you are trying to succeed. Assessing the relevance of other artists based only on their current performance without acknowledging the weight of their past successes can and will stop you from seeing opportunities that are right in front of you. Those who are young and fresh are just as busy as you are finding their place. Alternatively, those who had a fulfilled career and have played their role are often more available to help you in your path and propel you to new heights. They want you to succeed, they are the ones with the expertise, knowledge, and the connections you need to fulfill your goals.

So my advice is simple: Let go of what you think is good or bad. Try to see the bigger picture. Acknowledge everyone’s value. Support, love, and give to other artists no matter what. In this context, “giving” can range from offering your assistance to simply supporting someone’s work by recognizing what you like about it. Always know your worth, but remain humble to the idea that everyone has something to give. Focus on helping others grow and you will be rewarded; this will never fail you. Let go of “Business is not personal,” and recognize that in the creative world, personal, genuine relationships are vital. That is what networking is all about. Build a flawless reputation and give potential employers no other choice but to hire you because you have done that much for them. Being introverted is understandable, but not an excuse. Practice with a friend, train your sociability and it will take you far.

A genuine and social person equals a good networking artist. And a good networking artist equals a successful artist. Work to be a person in the service of others and you will never have to worry about networking, as it will just happen for you.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Carlos Neto
Carlos Neto (@carlosnetodance) is a choreographer, dance teacher, actor, and Backstage Expert.
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