Guest Post: Dinner Parties, Networking, and The Long Game

adam1I met Sue at a dinner party about a million years ago. It was actually a New Years Eve Party in the very early part of the last decade. Sue was there as a University friend of the host, I was the just-off-the-boat, soon-to-be-theatre-school student boyfriend of one of the host’s other guests. It was in one of those hard loft conversions in Parkdale, before hard loft conversions in Parkdale were a thing I was willing to literally sell my teeth for  I knew anything about, and my early-twenties-self was feeling pretty darn cool at this party, full of artists and cool cats, with exposed brick and beam. Sue and I got to chatting, I telling her of my naive country-boy dreams of working in indie theatre, she patiently indulging my naivete.

Oh, those halcyon days, when you could simply enjoy meeting a new friend, without worry that they would soon be finding drunken photos of you at a family barbecue on Facebook. I don’t think we even traded emails. 

That was it. I went off to theatre school, and would occasionally see Sue at openings and other events that I had guttersniped my way into while spending my days doing roll-ups and stretching my tongue root. All the while though, I knew (hoped) that one day…one day.

Since graduating from acting school I haven’t acted nearly as much as I hoped (Mom, you were right), but I have never not worked in The Biz. I’ve slowly but surely built up a varied and schizophrenic set of credits and skills, all the while meeting people along the way, and building my network. When Sue went freelance, I told her immediately that she should hire me for stuff, but I didn’t get pushy about it (ok, I did. But by then we had a few good years of beers at the Fringe tent, and tunes at The Cameron under our belts).

And here is where I come to the point: We talk a lot about Networking in this insane world of creative business-building, and for ages I’ve felt like I was terrible at it. There are myriad, conflicting resources out there on the internet for how to leverage your connections into contracts. But none of that has ever worked for me. The whole thing makes me feel slimy and smarmy, and a bit like I’m taking advantage of people.  Most of the people I work with now are folks that I have spent years building a relationship with. NOT talking about work, or my vast array of digital skills. NOT talking about art. Talking about anything but The Things We Do (though sometimes those too, but only because we really love them). And that is the long game. Over a decade later, when Sue asked me to fill in for a bit while Lisa went off and took over the world worked another gig for a bit, it wasn’t because she has ever seen my resume. It’s because she’s seen my work, and – maybe more importantly— knows that we can talk about something other than work for longer than ten minutes. Because we have spent more than ten minutes talking.

So the next time you meet somebody you want to work for/hire/collaborate with, skip the two days later email with resume attached for no reason other than ‘for your records’. Lay off on the LinkedIn invitations. Don’t invite me to your opening. Send me a set of cat gifs, not your online portfolio.

Play the long game. It’s way more fun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: