If you work in entertainment (or are trying to work in entertainment), you've certainly heard the phrase “it’s all about who you know” about a thousand times. And there's a good chance this phrase has given you some anxiety at one point or another. It's easy to fall into the trap of assuming that everyone who is working in Hollywood has an awesomely large network, one that you could never cultivate, and therefore you won't be successful. Perhaps you've even blamed the small size of your network during a frustrating job search. But often, the problem isn’t in how big your network is. Rather, it’s how you use it.
Consider the idea of six degrees of separation. Even if you move to LA from a small town with no industry connections, you won’t be more than 6 degrees away from someone in the industry. Instead of lamenting that you don’t have any connections in the industry, start building your network through the people you do know. That means friends, relatives, and fellow alumni. Tell everyone you know what you want to do and ask if they know anyone who can help you -- or anyone who might know someone. Your best friend’s new boyfriend might have an aunt who works as an editor on a TV show, but if you haven’t shared your eagerness to meet anyone in the industry with her, how would she know to make that connection?
Often, people don’t put two-and-two together -- your best friend in the example above may know you want to meet people in Hollywood, but maybe she thinks of her boyfriend’s aunt as the lady who posts about her cats on Instagram, not as a well-known editor. This is where you’ll have to get a bit more assertive. We recommend using LinkedIn to find connections to your connections. Connect with everyone you know -- industry or otherwise -- and search their connections. You can filter by location or industry type or company. Conversely, if you have a dream company you want to make inroads with, type that company name into LinkedIn and see if any 2nd degree connections come up, or if you can reverse engineer your third degree connections based on alma mater or previous work history. Politely reach out to your direct contact and ask for a warm introduction for an informational meeting, or (if your direct contact is a close contact) see if they know the person well enough to pass your resume along for a specific opening. Boom -- you’ve got a connection!
Of course, you'll want to maintain your network as much as possible on a regular basis -- meeting up for (virtual) drinks and reaching out with a friendly update, congratulatory note, or holiday wish -- but as your network grows, that’s a bit unrealistic. Just because you lose touch with someone doesn’t mean they’re lost to you forever! There’s no harm in reaching out to get back in touch (politely -- we can’t stress this enough) to make a simple ask. It’s important not to sell yourself short here, either -- if you had a good relationship, the contact may be happy to hear from you, or even excited about a potential collaboration or opportunity! You can also see if anyone you have a stronger relationship with is still in regular touch with that person and ask if they’d be willing to put in a good word for you -- like “I was talking to Jane Doe -- remember Jane? -- and she mentioned she’s looking for jobs in film sales, and your company has an opening. Would you mind if I put you two back in touch to chat?” Remember that the worst thing that can happen is the person ignores you or refuses to connect, which leaves you in the same position you're in now. The cost/benefit analysis yields only benefit potential, no cost.
Even if you’re starting with zero first degree connections (like we did!), you will accumulate a network of people in the industry, and once you do, you just have to remember to tap into it. Sure, it takes some work, sleuthing, and confidence, but those are skills we know you can master.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan