How to Cultivate a Winning Image and Build an Uplifting Network
In Hollywood, the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is often given more weight than other industries. Showbiz is an industry of networks and cliques. You’re either in with the red-carpet-strutting-popular crowd (successful and working), or you’re ostracized (out of work) and hanging out with career waiters and professional Uber drivers. Sure, those are two extreme points on the Hollywood social meter, but if you want to build your network and grow your caliber and career, consider each decision you make as a fork in the road leading to one of these two alternatives. You’re either building and cultivating a superior network, or you’re slamming on the brakes to your own progress by surrounding yourself with negative influences.
It’s very easy to look at the gap between your current network and the George Clooney level networks… BUT it’s also very easy to start boosting your network. With 5 simple principles, applied consistently and expanded upon daily, you will discover that the only one holding you back from mingling with highly successful people is you.
Principle 1: Show Up Smiling
Get out there. Whenever anyone is doing something that is proactive and challenging - out of the box - get out there and join them! Volunteer. Dedicate your time, give your gift. Tell the leader of the project how much you appreciate them taking a chance and doing something extraordinary, and how grateful you are to be able to be involved! Quit whining! Whining won’t get you anywhere but kicked off a project and never invited to the next one. Be the person people want to invite back to their next project. Be dependable. Be the person who is there giving positive support even when times are tough.
Tip for Actors: find a friend producing a web series or short film and volunteer to PA on set.
Principle 2: Reach
Once you’ve established a consistent habit of being grateful and pleasant to work with, and you’ve started to build a reputation of this, start swimming in deeper ponds. Pick up the phone and start making calls to people in your network who can connect you with people playing the game on the next level. Find a guru, expert, mentor, or someone you consider successful and reach out to them. Don’t ask for a “favor” and do respect their time. Keep your initial contact short and sweet. Successful people are busy and appreciate when someone can be clear and articulate. Start small, and respect the other person’s time. As you practice and calibrate your approach, it will become more natural and effective. Your goal is to establish a relationship with this person. Ask them for advice, show them that you practice the things they teach and appreciate the results of their teachings.
You’ll also want to continuously “level up” - Keep reaching for wider networks and more elusive celebrities. Remember to not get discouraged and to keep at it. It’s important to look at this all as an exercise. You’re growing, building muscles and new skills - if you’re not facing rejection, you’re not reaching hard enough! Lick your wounds and learn from your experience. How can you make the next approach smoother, how can you make a deeper connection, how can you get them to be excited when you call?
Finally, don’t overstep your welcome. Be persistent, but not needy. Be respectful, but not timid. Let people know what your goals are and how they can help, but don’t get bitter or resentful if the other party is not interested. Simply put, know when to call it quits. There are other opportunities just beyond this one, if it’s not going anywhere, wash your hands and move forward (with a smile, of course).
Principle 3: Provide Value
If you wanna hang out with superstars, you gotta be a little super yourself.
Here are two great ways to provide value: either be the one who does it, or make an introduction to the person or service who can. Both will create a lasting impression to whomever you helped and will earn you some brownie points (aka “mad respect”) for future interactions.
It goes without saying that the more skills you have at your disposal, the more value you can provide for people without those skills. We all have things we’re good at, and in leveraging those skills to others who might not have the time or energy to apply these skills we are now providing value. And there are always more skills we can learn. Every day is a chance to learn a new skill and hone existing skills - even if you’re only putting 10 minutes a day towards it, don’t skip your personal development. Whether it’s Chinese literature translation or accounting, understand what the people playing the game at the next level need and pivot your skill-set to cater to those needs and you will be unstoppable. If you yourself can’t do a skill, connect with someone who can and be the person who makes the introduction to the people who need that skill. Both parties will feel indebted to you for making the introduction.
Highly successful people often don’t have the time for extensive research when they encounter a problem, and will go for a working solution when it presents itself with minimal decision making involved. Be the person who makes solving problems easy and effective. As you start to connect with successful people, start asking questions about problems they are facing. If Johnny Joe the restaurant owner says, “Man, I never have time to do laundry…” volunteer to research local laundry services and send him a report of the costs and customer reviews. Or if Alicia the fashion designer is encountering difficulty keeping financial records, refer her to a reliable and affordable bookkeeper in your network. The possibilities are endless. The more skilled people in your network, the more value you can provide simply by making introductions. You don’t have to be the one to provide the service if you can make the introduction.
Be irreplaceable. As people begin to recognize your ability to solve their problems, they will feel obligated to do the same for you! This isn’t the goal, but it’s a nice perk. The goal you’re aiming for is to be irreplaceable - to find and then to provide the solution to help as many people in your tribe as possible.
Principle 4: Market Your Personal Brand
Whether you’re an actor or a freelance plumber, you’ve got a brand to market and that brand is you! Even if you work for a corporate gig, you still want to package your image and skills in a way that others around you can vibe with and respect. It’s not just about the clothes you wear or how you hold your posture, your brand is a presentation of your assets and personality. Your personal brand is a representation of the things you can deliver to others. As you grow and learn new skills, you’ll want to update your personal image. As you begin to expand your social circles, you’ll find the same old practices don’t cut it any more. If you’re not going back and reflecting on the effectiveness of your presentation, you might be burning more opportunities than if you took some active time improving your image and branding.
A word I have been obsessed with lately is calibration. So much of effective branding is getting noticed, and to get noticed you need to do things other people don’t do. You’ve got to take risks, and here’s the important part: reflect on those risks and calibrate your approach next time to find the sweet spot. Put yourself in situations where you can experiment with how your personal brand resonates with others in different social circles. Go strike up conversations with people, ask for feedback, video tape yourself and the way you interact with others. (I’ve learned so much about little quirks I do that make me look like a goofball by watching video of myself.) Whether you’re an airforce pilot or an actor on Broadway, we can significantly improve how other people view us simply by reflecting on our own behaviors and calibrating to something more effective.
Principle 5: Teach
I remember the time I saw my mentor, Randal Kleiser, after directing one of my very first film projects. He asked how it went, I replied, “It was the greatest thrill of my life.” Making movies is still an amazing thrill, but I’ve come to find an even greater thrill that seems to trump all others. It’s the thrill I get every time I teach a workshop or help someone find a solution to a problem they’re having. The thrill of giving back. Why is that? And what does teaching have to do with building a network?
It’s not until we start giving back that we realize how much experience and value we have acquired and are able to give. If we truly wish to build a legacy, we need to filter our knowledge and experience back to others. But more importantly, putting yourself in a position where other people are depending on you and looking to you for an answer ignites some inner drive to become better, to learn more, to finish harder. Teaching also solidifies your own understanding of a concept and improves your ability to relate with others, both of which are invaluable tools in networking I might add. It’s great to learn how to build a better image and network smarter, but it’s epic to teach others to do the same.
Author: Noah Edward Scott - LA REELS
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