Not sure who to network with? This should help…

In last week’s newsletter (which you can read here) I asked the question:

If you could add anyone to your dream network, who would it be?

What I found fascinating was both the lack of clarity but also how far-reaching the answers were (as opposed to being practical).

Great question…I have to think about it.

Elon Musk (or the Dalai Lama)

Charlie Chaplin

Lin-Manuel Miranda

And perhaps my favorite response:

“Thank goodness I don’t have the desire for tortuous networking of the guarded entertainment industry.”

“Torturous” is definitely one way to explain what it feels like to network in Hollywood? 🤷

I get it…from the outside it’s as if the entertainment industry is surrounded by an impenetrable wall (surrounded by a moat surrounded by electrified barbed wire), and it’s impossible to break through if you don’t already know the right people. And if you were to network with anyone, how impossible would it feel to try and connect with Elon Musk or Lin-Manuel Miranda?

Connecting with high value people feels like there’s some secret code nobody is willing to share. So you either break into the industry via nepotism, you start in the mail room or getting coffee (even if you’re a seasoned vet), or worst of all or you spend your career watching other people catch the big breaks while you’re left out in the cold.

There has to be a better way, right?

Not All Networking Advice Is Good Advice

In the last five years I’ve conducted thousands of coaching calls and helped hundreds of people in the entertainment industry strategize the next steps in their creative careers. And one of the most common obstacles stopping them is:

How can I network if I don’t know who to connect with?!

When you ask around to find out who you’re supposed to connect with, it’s always some variation on the same networking theme:

You just need to put yourself out there!

Just send cold emails and résumés to everyone. It can’t hurt, right?

Get the attention of the people who hire you. Don’t take no for an answer. Be persistent.

Yes, you do need to put yourself out there, but no you don’t need to blanket the market and get in front of every single person who could possibly hire you. The “shotgun approach” can hurt you. A lot.

Furthermore getting the attention of only the people who would hire directly could be good advice…but only in certain circumstances. There are other situations where reaching out directly to the “gatekeepers” could be disastrous if you take the wrong approach.

I have no doubt whomever is giving you networking advice has the best intentions. But they can only give you advice based on what has worked for them. But if your circumstances aren’t identical to theirs, is the advice still applicable?

Rather than throwing darts against the wall hoping you maybe might potentially someday possibly connect with the right people to help you achieve your career goals, I instead want to provide you with a simple-to-follow framework that should help you clarify EXACTLY who to surround yourself with as you build your dream network.


The 3 Levels of Your Dream Network

The ‘3 Levels of Your Dream Network’ is the same framework I have used with my Optimizer coaching students to help them clarify exactly who they need to connect with next based on where they are in their career journey now, where they’re headed next, and what’s stopping them.

When you need a “Peer Group”

Your “peer group” are those doing now what you’re doing now (or close to it).

For example if you work as an assistant in reality television, your peer group consists of your other friends & colleagues who are also assistants in reality television. Your peer group could also consist of alumni from your film school in college. And also included in your peer group could be members of an online community who are facing similar obstacles in their careers, regardless of whether or not they do the same work at the same level.

Here are examples where having a strong peer group can be beneficial:

  • When you’ve just started a new job and you’re unsure of the workflow. Your peer group can help you solve technical and logistical problems (without looking dumb by asking your boss something you should already know how to do).
  • When you’re making a career transition and stuck on your next steps. Your peer group can share with you how they’ve recently overcome similar challenges.
  • When you feel like you’re the only one dealing with the bullshit politics, the impossible schedules, and the burnout. Having a peer group reminds you we’re all in this together.

When you need “Experts”

Your “experts” are those who are doing now what you want to be doing next. These are not the world’s masters of their crafts. These are simply people who have already solved the challenges you are stuck on right now. The sweet spot for finding your “experts” are those who can empathize with where you’re struggling now because they were just there in the last few years.

Here are examples of where connecting with “experts” can be beneficial:

  • When you’re not sure what skills to develop to make a major career transition (or ask for a promotion)
  • When you have significant knowledge gaps about the next major steps you must take in your career
  • When you don’t even know what you don’t know

When you need “Gatekeepers”

Your “gatekeepers” are those who are either hiring you directly for the jobs you seek or can facilitate introductions to the right people. These are the ones holding the power to recommend you (and even approve you) for your dream jobs. These are the ones you need to convince you can do the job and make their lives easier.

Here are examples of where connecting with “gatekeepers” can be beneficial:

  • You’re the braindead obvious choice for an upcoming job that’s looking for people just like you, but nobody knows that you exist yet
  • You’re ready to make a major career transition (e.g. editor to director), but you need a high value recommendation from a trusted source to seal the deal

I’m curious, {{ subscriber.first_name }}…

Which of the 3 Levels of Your Dream Network do you need to surround yourself with to achieve your career goals?

Not all career advice applies to everyone’s unique circumstances. And I want to make sure you make the most of your time during a slow job market to surround yourself with people excited to help you achieve your goals.

In next Monday’s newsletter I’ll address the biggest obstacle that stops people from being clear on which level of their dream network they need to focus on developing next. It’s not what you think it is…

Be well.
Zack Arnold
Creator, Optimize Yourself

P.S. If you’re unclear who needs to be in your dream network (but you’re confident networking needs to be on your to-do list), I’ve got you covered in my upcoming ‘Build Your Dream Network’ live workshop.

SAVE THE DATE → Apr 22 – 9:30am PT

Imagine not only being able to strategize a year’s worth of potentially life-changing outreach in a single afternoon (connecting with the RIGHT people based on your goals), but you’ll do it all in a kick-ass Google spreadsheet that makes prioritizing your next most important outreach braindead easy!

Click here to add your name to the ‘Build Your Dream Network’ waitlist

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”