I’m fortunate that I get the opportunity to speak in front of many groups and recently that’s been more high school and college students. No matter what the discussion is about, we always spent a lot of time talking jobs and networking. Because we’re all so digitally connected it should be easier to network, at least that’s what they think. Twitter, Facebook, Forums like Creative Cow and Google Hangouts, that’s all you need to build a reputation.
Not really. Folks hire who they trust. We trust who we meet. We trust those who have met you. A college student the other day said, “So not necessarily the most talented person for the job will get the job?” I said no, the person who gets the job is the person we feel most comfortable with. He said, “That’s not fair.” Absolutely correct. It’s not fair in the least.
When you think about this industry, who is hired depends a LOT on how you fit in. Most companies, like my own, are pretty small. In my case just six full time people. So I have to consider how you and your personality fits in with those around you so as not to upset the balance. One bad apple in the mix and that could bring the entire company down. Yeah, you need skills to get a job, but more importantly, you need to ensure to your employer you’re going to fit in with the company “vibe.” Might be corporate, might be laid back, might be punk, whatever it is, your skill set AND your personality / attitude will determine your employment and career path.
There’s no other way to build up your reputation and skill set than to get out and meet people. People ask me all the time how I got to know so many major folks in the industry. It started out by giving a lot of helpful advice on CreativeCow.net. Then I started going to NAB each year and many of the companies who liked what I was writing sought me out. Then I started seeking out others that I really enjoyed on the Cow and other forums I read. Within my own town here, I attended User Group meetings, some after hours events and so. Not even necessarily in my industry, sometimes just Chamber of Commerce type events because you just never know who you’re going to meet. And I was just myself at every event, greet everyone with a smile and a handshake and show genuine interest in what they had to say. In other words, just being a nice guy.
When my company started in 2001 I had built up a tremendous network of folks in the local area who referred me for work, referred me for technical support and set up issues and a whole myriad of things. Just because I treat folks well and am always here to help. But I got out there and still get out there as often as I can to get in front of people.
That was the whole reason I wanted to get an Atlanta User Group up and running so badly. To create a place for creatives to share some knowledge and more importantly, share business cards and conversation so you can get to know each other. Personal relationships lead to referrals which can lead to working on one of the largest blockbuster films in 2013/2014 as the 2nd Assistant Editor. True story and it happened because two folks met at an Atlanta Cutters monthly meeting. If they don’t both get out of the house, introduce themselves and share business cards a major career opportunity is missed.
I’m very passionate about folks getting out from behind avatars, putting down the mobile device and actually congregating together to discuss this craft that we all love so much. Honestly live training even trumps networking events. While the instructor has a set outline to walk through, inevitably the conversation turns to “What If?” or “Have you Thought About…..” and those tend to lead to some of the most incredible creative discussions. I learn more from those questions than anything else. Sure you can try to ask something like that on a chat forum or hangout, but you’re competing with folks who can type faster than you. Dialogue, human dialogue, will get you more jobs than one liners during a digital chat. You bond with the folks around you, share business cards and when the need arises, you just might call each other for work. Has happened to me on multiple occasions both as a student or the instructor. We’re in the room together, we can get a gauge on personalities, what the person is really like and whether you’d actually recommend each other for work.
That just doesn’t happen via avatars. How many times have folks accused you of being “mean” or “angry” when in reality you thought you were being funny. Your voice made it sound funny but the words on the screen just didn’t translate. That generally doesn’t happen when you’re together. I see your face, I hear the inflection in your voice, I hear the delivery of the words and there’s little chance for confusion. There’s also a great opportunity to take the conversation in different directions than it would if we were just talking digitally. We don’t have to wait on that typing delay for a response.
That’s why I’m so proud to be associated with my Atlanta Cutters brethren and being part of a creative event that I don’t think has ever been done. I look around and I see training events that are either uninteresting, overpriced for what they are, or look interesting but cater to “elite” and have very elite prices to boot. I’m all for bettering myself in the creative field and meeting interesting artists but I’m not going to blow multiple mortgage payments to do it. We just decided it’s time to put on a training event that’s both worthwhile of your time and reasonably priced. The Atlanta Cutters are non-profit so we’re just about breaking even.
Through all of this live networking those of us in the Cutters have done through the years, we literally had a huge group of friends to call on and participate. Now you have a chance to not only take workshops and meet these guys, but to hang after hours, go to dinner, have lunch, sit around the bar, whatever. Then throw in all the creatives around you and in one weekend you’ll make more connections that you would probably make in a year via social media. You see it’s not just about the actual people you meet directly. Those people will then turn around and introduce you to even more folks, just like you’ll do the same for them. Again, it’s the trust factor. I met you, I understand who you are and what you’re about, I like what I see, I’ll pass your name along to other folks. I have met SO many people incredible folks like Scott Simmons, Al Mooney, Robbie Carman, Pat Inhofer and Jesse Averna. Folks who were introduced to me by other people in my networks. People like Shane Ross and Jerry Hofmann whom I was introduced to originally on Creative Cow forums I then became good friends with by meeting up at NAB. It’s that personal connection that makes all the difference.
It’s so much different than getting an email, a Twitter DM or even a phone call. Nothing takes the place of live, face to face communication and networking. That’s why the Los Angeles Creative Production User Group, the Boston Creative Production User Group and the San Francisco Cutters, who graciously let us borrow the Cutters name, are such inspirations to the rest of us. They have created communities and ecosystems that help locals meet other locals and in turn share knowledge and connections. We originally planned to stage a Supermeet Atlanta but those guys are so incredibly busy we just couldn’t make it work, so we came up with our own version, the Atlanta Creative Ball which mixes a bit of the Media Motion Ball and the Supermeet together. Yet another tremendous way for creatives to network with other creatives and have the opportunity to win some really cool prizes like a Blackmagic Cinema Camera. Parties are yet another great way to get out there and meet folks.
So going all the way back to that college student. Life is not fair when it comes to the creative industry. You have to make your own luck, you have to make connections and you have to make a LOT of connections. Only takes one or two to really kick your career into high gear, but getting to that right one can sometimes take a while. So take advantage of any live networking and training opportunities in your local area. Gain some knowledge and get connections. Show people who you really are. That’s how I landed my dream gig on “Good Eats.” Started out by responding to a call for assistance on the Creative Cow forums. The person I met liked me, my attitude and my talents. Turned out he was the DP for Good Eats. Because he met me, he felt comfortable introducing me to Alton Brown to discuss a concept he had. That led to 5 incredible years working for one of the most talented folks in all of television. Answering his questions on a forum would have solved his problems. Meeting him in person took my career into an amazing direction.
If you’re in the Southeast, I encourage you to at least attend the Atlanta Creative Ball, Oct. 26 in Atlanta, which is NOT a formal event. It’s a party with a full dinner, drinks (cash bar), Founders of the Creative Cow, Keynote by Filmmakers the Diamond Brothers and the Raffle worth almost $30,000. $75 with code ATLBall2013
The Southeast Creative Summit is just an amazing three days of all things creative, Oct. 25-27, for $449 with the code wb2013. Or you can attend a Single Day for $149 (Friday or Saturday). Your chance to hang with Oscar, Emmy and Peabody award winners and other creatives just like you.
Both events are just tailored made to get you in front of other folks and get your network growing. Heck come to Ball and we can get your equipment list growing!