On the quest for greatness are you tired of hearing “It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know?” Me too! The phrase is totally played out but these days, those words are truer than ever. The harsh reality is that a potential boss may not even open your email without a nod from an essential person and in a field like mine (ahem entertainment news) your worth can be based on your address book.
Living in a major city like New York, Chicago or L.A. you would think that we have it made, right? The aforementioned places are flooded with influencers, tastemakers and V.I.P.s, who, if you play your cards right, could give you the career boost that could change your life.
STORY: “The Party Files” By Sharon Carpenter
But does the thought of talking business with the big dawgs have you cowering in the corner? And are you wondering why they would ever give YOU the time of day? Well, that’s where I come in. Check out these hot networking tips (trust me, I learned from experience and mistakes) and you’ll quickly turn your list of wack contacts into a Blackberry (#TeamBB) packed full of power players.
BE ABOUT THAT LIFE
* Hit the streets. You never know who you could run into in the big city, but you won’t meet anyone worthwhile chillin’ on the couch. Grab an appropriate hang out partner (leave the die-hard party animals back at the crib) and get out on the scene. Be at the dinners, networking events and industry parties. Get to know the promoters and hosts. They can introduce you to everyone!
* Make it happen. Who would be in your dream database? Russell Simmons, Debra Lee, Perez Hilton? Put together a list of peeps you’d love to meet, then do your research to see which panels, conferences or parties they’re heading to then make it your business to be there!
* Don’t discriminate. If you only zero in on V.I.P.s you’re missing out on a world of other contacts that can help you on your mission to achieve world dominance! People at every level can be great to have in your corner.
* Rockin’ it right. Does your outfit send the right message? Girls – a plunging neckline and sky-high hemline will definitely get you noticed…as a bimbo. Guys, switch those sagging pants, the tailored look says “take me serious.”
GO FOR YOURS
* Seize the opp (or kick yourself afterwards!) There’s no time to be shy. When you run into Ms.Lee, Mr. Simmons or Perez, figure out the right opportunity to make your move then go for it. If a friend can make the intro – great, otherwise be bold and introduce yourself. True bosses appreciate young folks with confidence.
* Resist the thirst. Here’s how to come across as uncouth and desperate: roll up on someone when they’re slow dancing with a date, exiting the bathroom stall (oh no, not the handshake) or taking a mouthful of hors d’oeurves. Awkward!
* Please no photos (Kanye West voice). Resist the urge to Instagram your first interaction with a high-profile contact, now you’re just a fan in their eyes.
* Keep it short n’ sweet. So finally, you’re face-to-face with the person who could change your life! Keep cool, chat casually about the event, your appreciation for his/her work and IF the opportunity presents itself, speak a little about what you do. Keep it brief – not everyone will be in the mood to talk business. And unless you want your new connect to think there’s a love connection, avoid flirting.
* Laugh in the face of rejection (but not in his face!) So you asked Bill Gates for the business card and instead got the brush off? It happens. The higher someone’s profile, the less chance you have of scoring that personal info. At least you’re now on his radar. A few more interactions and he’ll be putty in your hands!
* The follow up. Start with a SHORT, friendly email…yes, trash that long list of demands Ladies and Gents! Get to know people before you ask for favors.
* Tweet ‘em. This is why I love Twitter. You didn’t get the personal info? Who cares? You can reach pretty much anyone through social media these days. Send a pleasant Tweet or Facebook message that reads something like:“Great meeting you at the Alicia Keys event. What a show. Stay in touch.” And wait for the response.
* Stalker alert! Got a silent reply? Don’t take it personal. Wait a few weeks (NOT hours or days) and try again. Refrain from using stalker statements – “I never heard back from you,” “I’m checking in once again” or “Please reply this time.” And realize it’s sooo unsexy to beg for a “follow” back.
* Test the waters. It’s finally time to approach your contact about that fab idea of yours. Fingers-crossed! Tease them with the most relevant info first but offer them an ‘out’ – lines like “Let me know if you’d like to hear more details” or “If this is of interest to you…” take the pressure off. If they go for the bait, great! If not, just keep building until another opportunity comes around.
* Give as good as you get. What do YOU offer? How can YOU help? If you approach networking from the angle that you’re there to give, not just take, people will be way more likely to let you into their circle. There’s no better way to hook a big fish in the big city than to hook them up!
Now you’re fully prepared to get out there and go get ‘em. Good luck!
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