Ugh!! How many times exactly do I have to hear about the power of friggin' networking?!! I mean come on....I guess enough times as it takes for me to realize that it could actually be worth it. By now we all know that the only way to make it in this biz is to network. It's all we hear about. For some, like me, this induces a deep feeling of dread. I mean, I'm great when it comes to meeting people on set and staying in contact with those I've worked with, but the thought of speaking to people whom I don't know in the least is daunting. Especially in a party-like setting. However, it apparently isn't enough to connect with those you meet naturally, like on set, auditions,or in class. You have to go to these special events where industry will be present and try to make genuine connections with people you don't know. And not just actors, but those who could potentially give you acting jobs. (I mean, that is the point, right?) It's risky!! Lol. I have my moments, when I'm completely comfortable or excited about something, of being talkative and outgoing, but for the most part I'm an introvert. It takes a lot of energy for me to "be on" and make interesting conversation with even people I know, let alone strangers. (Of course, it's worth it for people I like <wink and a smile>.) When I'm at my day job I'm forced to talk to customers. The thing is I can do it very well and sometimes actually enjoy it. The other thing is that it drains me completely. It can take a lot for me to think of things to say on the spot.
I wrote in a post earlier this year (or the end of last year) that I would make an effort to attend some of these networking events. (Premieres and screenings don't count since I already know half of the people in attendance.) However, the thought of going to a party, picking out someone to speak to, and then actually going over to them and introducing myself typically makes me want to throw up. Especially when actors can be known to be desperate creatures. And I definitely don't want to be seen as desperate. Or as disingenuous. Or as a bumbling idiot.
Also, I've always wondered if networking in this way is really truly necessary. Like, do actors really make connections at these events that prove to be valuable in the future? And by valuable, I don't only mean jobs. A valuable connection could also be meeting an amazing photographer who will cut you a great deal on headshots. It could be meeting an acting coach or a manager. It could even be meeting an actor who has a manager or coach who is currently taking on new clients. You never know. But, because of my fears, and lack of belief that these mixers actually produce any fruitful connections, I've always kind of blown off invites to industry parties. I say "kind of" because I do briefly consider attending before sending the email to the trash bin.
Cut to lately. Despite a mostly productive 2014, I've been a little down. Up until the end of July I was constantly booked and busy to the point that I was a little happy when things slowed down a bit. It's nice to have time to jog and cook with my husband. Still, there has been a nagging feeling deep inside that I need to take more steps, different steps, to boost my career. This feeling comes from the fact that even though I have supporting roles in independent films that are available on DVD, I still have to depend on a "survival" job. I'm still not making much money acting (or any really). I guess the realization really hit this year how much it takes to actually make a living acting. Every time I'm rushing to my job in retail to make it on time so I won't get in trouble there is a voice inside telling me that nothing I've done acting wise has amounted to anything or ever will. It's telling me that my talent isn't good enough to make a living doing what I love. This isn't true of course, but it's sometimes there and not only does it shake my confidence to the core but it also destroys my inspiration. Hence the reason (one of the reasons) I haven't blogged since February.
I've been racking my brains trying to figure out what to do in order to give my career an edge over the competition. I have faith in God, but in time likes these my faith is tried and it's honestly hard to hang on. Praying for guidance and not getting answers is tough. For me, there are so many places for an actor to go that it's overwhelming. There are classes, workshops, one-on-ones with casting directors, one-on-one with agents, and the list goes on! The choices swirl around in my head and it's impossible for me to decide and I end up doing nothing. Of course, that is God's plan sometimes; for us to wait on Him (patiently) to give us clear direction. It's harder than it sounds. Lol. But I know from past choices that I would much rather wait on Him than waste money and time on something that isn't right for me.
Once I (kinda) let go, the answer became clear to me that I should attend a networking event. But which one? Now that I actually wanted to go to one, there didn't seem to be any coming up. Well, literally a couple days after I made this decision, I received an invite to one which occurred earlier this week. I knew I would be off of work night, it was free of charge, and my guts told me that this one was the one to start with.
As the days grew closer to the evening, I was feeling extremely anxious, but also determined. And when the evening arrived and I was on my way, I was actually feeling excited and hopeful. I knew that even if I didn't get the courage to speak to any one, that I would at least get a taste of it and something positive would happen. But as I sat on the bus to NYC something else arose inside of me; a confidence and a knowing that I would reach out and meet someone new. I already had a fellow actress and friend who would be meeting me there, which took some (very little) of the edge off. And chances were one of us would run into somebody we knew. It didn't happen, but still...
I was surprised at how much fun I had and much easier it was than thought it would be. Sure there were moments of awkwardness, but I realized quickly that everyone there was in the same situation I was. My friend and I made it a challenge to speak to people, almost like a game, and we had a blast; even exchanged a few business cards. The key is to let things happen naturally. You make eye contact with someone, smile, then someone says hello. It's kinda like dating. Lol. The hardest part for me was knowing when and how to end each conversation, ask to swap cards, and move on to the next meeting. You want each interaction to be genuine but not too long. You want to make an impression, but, after all, we are all there to meet different people. And of course, you have to leave yourself open so that each interaction can take on a life of it's own. I'm confident that this skill will get easier with time. Although I only made a few connections that night, it was a great start for me personally. I was happy to have a few follow up emails to send the next day.
The most amazing thing to me is how proud I feel of myself and how happy I feel. I feel so inspired at the moment. I even felt absolutely content while at work last night. Facing your fears and trying something different is extremely fulfilling. I know I want this career bad enough that I am willing to step outside of my comfort zone. I also know that God will continue to lead me and help me. I have to say that I can't wait until the next industry mixer!! I will definitely post about any connection that leads to a career boost.
P.S. If you are in NYC visit www.localtalentconnect.com to find out more about this particular mixer I attended. They occur once a month and are free to attend. LTC is for artists and entertainers of all kinds. The organization has members from all over the world and you can join them on Facebook to receive updates.