By Dave Foxx
As I’m sure you all know, my company went through a particularly wrenching reduction in work force a few weeks ago. Just here in the NYC plant, I lost 89 friends. While cutbacks are always painful, they almost always result in culling away any dead wood, eliminating some people who really don’t belong in this business in the first place. However, inevitably some very talented people end up on the beach. One reason I have never migrated to program management is the need to, on occasion, let people go. I’m just not cut out to deliver that kind of devastation to anyone, particularly to people I would have probably hired in the first place.
Witnessing the carnage first hand got me to thinking about how unprepared we all are to shop our talents to prospective new stations or agencies. How long has it been since I prepared my own resume? Is my demo reel up-to-date with my best work of the last couple years? Do I even have a current headshot? (Not that a producer needs one, but the last interview I went on was for on-air work, something I think I could still do, in a pinch.) Just thinking about all this made me break out into a cold sweat.
Then I thought about my ace in the hole: my own personal network. One of the perks of writing this column is it regularly puts me in touch with thousands of people who either do what I do or manage people who do what I do. The great part is, they touch back. I get a lot of email from readers who comment on columns in a positive light. I get a few taking issue (in a pleasant way) with things I’ve said. I also hear from a lot of people who make suggestions for future columns either directly or by way of a series of questions. I make it a point to answer every one of them and quite a few have turned into regular “pen pals,” writing once every month or 6 weeks. Some days, it’s a challenge to keep up, but considering the tough times we’re all in right now, it’s my best hope of always having someplace to go should I need a new job.
To be fair, a lot of the people I correspond with are not in any kind of position to offer me employment. In fact, a great number of these people are hopeful that someday I would help them get a job here in New York. But I’ve always viewed a personal network as a two-way street, and so should you.
A few years ago, I gave a presentation at the Dan O’Day Production Summit in Los Angeles that was sub-titled “How To Get My Gig.” In it, I explained all my “secrets of success.” The biggest secret (I’m sure Dan will forgive me exposing this at this late date) is that there ARE no secrets. Train up… practice… network, were the three main areas of the speech, each broken down into component parts. The last has no component parts though. It is what it is: network. Reach out to other people who do what you do… yes, even the guy across the street. When you hear some work that impresses you, tell them. Bear in mind that they might choose to NOT respond. Don’t take it personally. Chances are, they have no idea who you are. If they do or don’t respond, just accept how they choose to roll. Maybe that person hasn’t read this column yet and doesn’t know the benefits of networking.
In fact, here is an excellent chance to do just that. The RAP Awards finalists are all on this month’s CD and their individual email addresses are all listed on the tracking sheet. Make it a point to pick your own favorites and send congratulatory emails to the producers. Open up a dialogue and lay the groundwork for your own network. When you get next month’s issue with the winners, some of them are bound to coincide with your list. Send another email. Be sincere and DON’T be a pest, but open the door to some kind of relationship.
There aren’t really any rules of networking, but let me offer a few suggestions. You’re not trying to make a new BFF, OK? Keep it professional and remember that whomever you are contacting is probably as busy as you are, possibly more. Being chatty is a big turn off for me for that very reason. I don’t have the time or inclination to talk about your spouse, pet, parents and hobbies. A few lines asking a serious question about business in general is always welcome though. Avoid telling or asking for secrets, especially if the other person has ties to or works for your competition. First, I doubt they would respond and second your current employer would have definite grounds for dismissal, regardless of the economic climate.
So this weekend, get your resume out and bring it up-to-date. Over the next few weeks, get a new demo reel together. But starting right now, get busy on your network. Even in today’s economy, it’s not what you know that will get you the next gig.
No audio from da Foxxboy this month. There are just too many excellent pieces on the CD to compete with. LOL.