In a world made up of social networks, the old adage 'it's who you know,' seems obvious. Nowhere is it more apropos and lived up to than in Los Angeles. Job fairs and professional courses are great. But, a connection, an 'in,' or a few kind words can make the difference between getting a job, contract or gig, and being left out in the cold.
LA has been particularly lampooned for this phenomenon in movies like The Player in which Tim Robbins' character attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in order to make the right connections and close film deals. What follow are some tips for career networking in Los Angeles that should help you get into the collective mindset of this socially-driven career town.
Career Networking at LA Social Gatherings
The expression 'see and be seen,' is not just social in nature but also relates to careers as far as personal branding in LA. Being in the right place and around the right people can go miles towards establishing a positive career related reputation in Los Angeles.
- Take action when possible. Inviting yourself to a party might be going a bit too far (and come across as pushy and intrusive). However, LA locals always appreciate a good private house party. Consider throwing a medium-sized dinner party with people in your related field and asking everyone to invite a friend or two. It doesn't have to be officially dubbed a 'networking party' (which might put off some people)--just a friendly casual dinner amongst people with common goals and backgrounds.
- In some more artistically oriented fields like architecture, film and design, art openings are the events where networking takes place. It's really easy to get invited to openings. Simply find a top notch gallery and put yourself on their mailing list. Most have guest registries open and by their entrances. You'll receive invitations to exhibit openings before you know it. In a similar vein, LACMA has a MUSE level of its subscriptions billed as "for young artists and art enthusiasts," another great way to be part of a community (usually) made up of professionals.
- If you are a regular blogger, you can sometimes obtain invites to gatherings for related industries by agreeing to cover an event.
- Sites like Meetup are also good for singling out events pertaining to a particular area or industry. They may not be exclusive but they can be a good starting point. These days there is practically a social network for every niche. Some examples of career communities are The Whole Nine (for creative professionals), Media Bistro (media and publishing professionals) and of course the more general Linked In.
- When appropriate, don't be afraid to take advantage of a photo opportunity at an event. I'm not saying you should be a crazed serial opportunist and ask every higher-up to pose shaking your hand. But when there's an open door, don't hesitate to walk through it.
Los Angeles Career Networking Etiquette
Because LA is such a career networking town (home of such seedier related terminology such as 'the casting couch,' etc.) it's important to be subtle, polite and tasteful when you schmooze (for lack of better terms). No one wants to be cornered at a party, lavished with discomforting fan-like praise for their company or work and then given a salesman-like pitch.
- Whenever possible, ask to be introduced by a friend. In this case, the third party acts as a sort of agent, singing your praises (so you don't have to self-hype, a definite no-no)
- Learn the art of working your background into the conversation naturally rather than just coming out and announcing that you're in the same industry. Remember to be patient. Career relationships, like social relationships can take a long time to establish (at least the good ones). People need to build up trust.
- If you're asking a friend or previously known colleague a favor (such as helping you with a connection), in this case, it's better to come right out with it, rather than phonying around with social niceties and then culminating with the grand finale of asking your favor.
- If someone is kind enough to take a meeting with you, always follow up with a thank you note or email. This may seem obvious or old-fashioned in a laid-back town like LA, but it's just plain courtesy and will be duly noted.
Los Angeles Career Networking Ethics
Social preference probably accounts for, to a large degree, how business is done in this town. It's not all about being 'good on paper.' Often your edge over someone else (for a job) is how likable you are to your superior. So, there is nothing wrong with being social in order to curry your flavor in the career realm, as long as you keep your ethics in-tact.