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How to change your mindset about networking

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Whenever I chat with a client or collaborator of any kind, one thing always comes up: networking is the worst. Performers and creators don’t want to do it, they don’t know how to do it, and they avoid it at all costs. I get it. It’s the fake smiles. It’s the casual look over your shoulder to see who to talk to next. It’s the tentative plans to hang out when both of us have intentions to cancel day of. It’s any combination of: “So, what have you been up to?” “We really need to get a drink or something.” “Have you booked anything lately?” “How’s quarantine going?” You know how my quarantine is going, Sally. You know.

Whether or not it’s because of phoning it in or the over-eager beaver, it doesn’t matter if it’s a college student or Tony winner, networking turns many people off. You’re not alone. But we shouldn’t be afraid of networking when we’re collectively surviving a global pandemic. We’ve been through scarier stuff.

We have to reframe the mindset. During a conversation with my friend and fellow multihyphenate Catherine Porter, we were talking about the trials and tribulations of networking. She searched for a second and said, “We’re…netweavers.” Immediately that sounded more approachable and active. “Working” perpetuates that this is a mandatory effort for your career. It’s cumbersome and can be a nightmare. While netweaving is the idea that in a professional networking situation, we’re all worthy of being seen while intertwining possibilities to create and see each other.

There is a fine line between networking and netweaving. Are you making these connections to advance yourself or are you creating an environment where everyone can succeed? What establishes the difference is your intention. So how do we shift our intentions to become netweavers? To me, netweaving is about three key elements.

1. Building an ensemble.
What good is that business card in your pocket if you never plan to use it? When netweaving, search for the active attributes that get you excited to use that email address. Are there keywords in your conversation? Mutual life experiences? Does this person remind you of your mother? Whatever the reason, can you see yourself creating with this person?

2. The creative experience.
Are you engaging with someone whose work you admire? Or are they a recent college grad and are looking to experience more of the art you create? Engage. Figure out ways to interweave your artistic efforts. How can you help someone? How can they help you?

3. Lasting impressions.
Simple. Is this a person you can see yourself creating with 20 years from now? Many of us can’t see into the future, but we can follow impulses. Leap and the net will appear.

In my opinion, netweaving is all about micro-movements. If you’re speaking with someone who is working on a project and you want to be involved, plant that seed. If you have the goodies to make their experience better, they should know about it. It’s not social climbing, it’s not using someone, it’s stepping up and delivering. Other amazing, active micro-movements are email introductions, plus one invitations, being a guest on a podcast, pro-bono work for non-profits or organizations, and more.

Ultimately, networking is old-fashioned and stale. Remember we’re artists and the feeling we so strive for when building an ensemble does not have to be chained to the rehearsal room. Sure, say no to going to that party, but make sure you invest in a netweaving opportunity that’s tailored to your speed. Take a breath, change your mindset, be yourself, and find those ways to connect. They are out there.

Michael Kushner is NYC’s leading multihyphenate. Photography: Vogue, NYTimes, The Tonys, and more. He’s the creator of “The Dressing Room Project.” Producing: Executive Producer of Wes Taylor & Alex Wyse’s “Indoor Boys” (Emmy Nominated and Indie Series Awards Winning), “XaveMePlease” (Frameline 43 LGBTQ+ Festival), and “Moments in the Woods” (a virtual gala for the HFWAA featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda), and more to be announced shortly. Podcasts: “Dear Multi-Hyphenate” and “My Broadway Memory.” Proud member of Equity. @themichaelkushner

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