Networking With The Powerful And Famous: How To Hustle Your Balls Off (Vol. 2)

The second in an occasional series I will do on career shit.

Sep 10, 2012 at 4:00pm | Leave a comment

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This pic with Jane and Courtney was taken at the xoJane launch party -- a party which I was not even originally on the list for. And now I have a job here. This stuff works, I swear! #demonstratevalue

OK, I'm writing this from home because my stuff is finally arriving from California today, so I'm waiting for the movers to arrive so I don't have to wear garbage outfits anymore! Emily is going to be so proud. I'm kind of sad though because since I'm not physically in the office I'm going to miss meeting Gala in person, which I've been incredibly excited about because I imagine her walking into the office in a cloud of pink fairy sparkle dust and magic.

So back to the hustle of networking. Same caveat as the first round. Be careful with use of the Networking Force. In other words, know that it can go wrong sometimes. But as Wayne Gretzky says, "You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take." Yes. I just quoted Wayne Gretzky. DEAL WITH IT. 

Now ready? Set. Go.

It's secret sharing time!

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1. It's helpful to mentally psych yourself up for the fact that many of the networking encounters you're going to have are literally 3 minutes in length -- because of limited access and the realities of social dynamics.

So what does this mean? Energy is everything. Especially in micro encounters. If you are apologetic or hate yourself or are super defensive or communicate a subconscious cloud of "I'm not worthy and you should perpetually regard me as a less-than inferior always-on-the-sidelines fan -- rather than a motherfucking player (but one who has the appropriate amount of deference and knowing my place-ness)" then people will "read" that energy from you. If someone doesn't look me in the eye or gives me a dead-fish handshake? I read that. I empathize with it because I used to be painfully shy and just kind of riddled with shame for being a weirdo tall girl. But I also think: OK, this person probably has more work to be done on themselves before they're able to play at a certain level.

Because that's what all of this is. Playing at a certain level. When I got a dating column in The Post, did I just love it when Gawker commenters said things like, "She looks like Renee Zellweger with Down's Syndrome"? Of course not. But I recognized that putting myself out there to be ridiculed as a public figure was the level I was playing at -- so I had to be able to laugh it off. You have to be able to take it just as well as you can give it. Because unfortunately, the dreams you have of putting something creative out into the world don't usually translate into a downfall of rose petals from heaven as Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jen Aniston, the Palestinians and the Israelis all stand together on their desks doing a "Dead Poets Society"-style slow-clap at your entrée into the world of the artistic major leagues.

A lot of people will tell you that you suck. It sucks. But it is what it is. So you need to have a pretty healthy sense of self-confidence to be able to play on that field -- instead of being the kind of person whose self-worth is contingent upon constant adulation.

And in every encounter, you are communicating shorthand code for your skills and capabilities. Can you take criticism? Do you know your place in the strata of things? I told Olivia when we saw Madonna last week, that I recognized that if I were ever to enter the office and Jane was to say, "By the way, Mandy, everything you've ever done in your life has been wrong, and I hate you," the appropriate response from me would be, "Thank you for your honest criticism. I'll take that into account, and I appreciate your sharing." Why? Because that communicates deference and knowing my place and also that I can take it and have enough self-confidence that how I feel about myself isn't contingent upon her praise. (And obviously, that character would be Bizarro Jane. She's like the most encouraging boss ever. It's an extreme example. You get it.)

2. This means you must convey in every action a very specific life force and confidence and joy.

Nothing is a big deal! There is nothing to fear! Maybe the world will end tonight! Yeah, and there's nothing we can do to control it SO HAVE FUN! Listen to Britney Spears "Till the World Ends"! You know? Have a totally great time exactly in that moment and second.

And do this neat little trick: Come from a place of total Power Empathy. Put yourself in the position of other people. It's a delicate balance of: Security in your own self. And zero desperation. But also: Making other people feel the richness of their own lives and accomplishments (not being a suck-up but being genuine about this). Serving as an enhancement of how a powerful person can feel about themselves.

3. Also: Do your research on some of the people you will be interacting with if you're going to an exclusive event or party.

Of course a celebrity or leader in a particular field is probably not going to have more than a splash of time for you, probably because he or she is negotiating and dealing with all the people who are there. But here's how it can work. I will illustrate via a party that I went to as a plus one with Candace Bushnell and Jay McInerney. Two of the people that I met that night were an editor at Vanity Fair and an editor at Interview. I had done my research to find out what was currently up with Bushnell and McInerney and the rest of the guest list and so I ADDED VALUE to all of my small talk conversations rather than being a derrrr-I don't-really-belong-here sack of doltage. And not in a creeper robot fake loser way either. In an organic way. By dropping nuggets of small talk knowledge -- I positioned myself as a player vs. an outsider.

Like: "How cool is that Candace just finished filming 'The Carrie Diaries.' I bet it'll be really entertaining to imagine what Carrie Bradshaw was like in the '80s. And how insane that something being set in the '80s is now a period piece."

Suddenly you are: Communicating the latest and the greatest knowledge -- and you're not being stressful but more happy and silly and fun and joyful about it. Not disrespectful and a snarky toxic shit monster. But just joy! Here we are at this event with X, Y, Z. Know your shit.

It is so attractive. See the diff in that vs. if I had said about that party -- which I got into as a PLUS ONE mind you: "Well, I'm not even really supposed to be here. I kind of got my friend to bring me here."

Fuck that: Position yourself as a player! Not cocky or uber-aggressive either. But rather: In the moment. Which is very key. Not: Acting as if you are fucking over it, already. (Watch the Stephen Colbert commencement address about saying "yes." It is impossible to be both young and wise. Do not be a cynic. Which is a mistake I think a lot of people make.) I am always turned off by any subtlety of entitlement -- even though it's practically like air nowadays because it's the inculcation of a culture of being afraid of appearing as if you may be "trying."

4. Remember: Most truly powerful (gracious, grateful, remembering where they came from) people actually LIKE when it seems as if you're trying -- if you do it in a way that reminds them of positive hustle and perhaps their own killer instincts, especially when they were younger and even "hungrier."

This is a way to remind them of their salad days and paying it all back. The key is to not do it in a greedy grubby way but rather in a gracious one. It's also worth checking out some of my best networking advice -- including The Post article I link to -- on my personal Web site. I actually just republished this one post after keeping it private. It's literally some of my  best advice in the world.

So what do you think? What did I miss? I'm not done on this topic either. (This is all being culled and inspired by a manifesto-style email I sent to a friend when she got an invite to an A-list party, and I decided that instead of feeling sorry for myself that I wasn't on the list that I would give her some of my secrets and pay that shit forward.)

What is your best networking success story? Where have you used the Networking Force, and it's gone really right -- or really wrong? How is your handshake? What is the meanest thing anyone has ever said about you on the Internet, and did you laugh it off, too?

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