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How to Build Your Empire: Stop networking. Start cultivating.

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Candy WashingtonThe word “networking” is often viewed as a dirty and slimy word. Who wants to feel like they are being networked? More often than not you leave a “networking” event feeling like you need a shower and wondering, “Well what was the point of that?” If you have ever felt that way then fret not! Below are my top five tips on how to stop networking and start cultivating meaningful relationships to take your career to the next level.

Tip #5: Be interested (and listen).

I have found that they best way to connect with people is to be genuinely interested in what they have going on. Forget about talking about the last 5 projects you worked on or your web series that is currently in development. Listen to what the other person is saying and engage in regular conversation with them rather than try to steer the conversation back to the “business”. Try to connect on a friendship level and not only will you be memorable but also you will be on your road to becoming friends.

Remember: People like to hire and work with their friends and people that they genuinely like, not someone who acts like they are on a job interview.

Tip #4: Be confident (even if you aren’t “currently working” on anything).

If you are like the majority of creative people out there, you freeze up, get defensive, and lose confidence the moment some one asks you, “So what are currently working on? What have I seen you in?” and then that little sparkle in your eye fades and you feel judged if you don’t have a knock-em dead response. Just take a deep breath, smile, and respond with some thing that you are currently doing to cultivate your career, e.g. “Actually, I’m in a improv  class right now and I’m so excited on using what I’m learning in my next role.” The trick here is to come from a place of optimism and excitement. Who doesn’t want to work with someone that is positive and always working to improve their game?

Remember: Always stand in your power and don’t let any thing shake your confidence. Think about the most popular kids in high school – what did they really have going on? Who knows, but they strutted their stuff like ruled they world. So should you.

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(Candy with actor, philanthropist, and fashion designer, Gbenga Akinnagbe)

Tip #3: Look for connections in unexpected places

Thinking outside of the box of people to connect with may surprise you. I went to a breakfast series for alumni of my alma mater in NYC. The speaker just happened to be a CFO for one of the top independent production companies. He did an amazing job, I chatted with him afterwards about his weekend (not the business), and then sent him a thank you email a few days later. A few weeks passed by I came across a breakdown for a role in a film his company was producing. I shot him a quick email, and by the end of the next week I was in auditioning for the role with the producers.

Remember: The morale of the story.

  • Connect with people with common interests
    • Went to the same school
    • Create a genuine bond
      • Talked about personal interests not business topics
      • Forget about titles
        • Who knew meeting the “finance guy” could lead to an audition for a feature film?

Tip #2: Follow up and follow through.

Congrats! You’ve made a genuine connection with some one either in the industry or connected to it. So now what? Follow up. Send an email to see how they are doing and if they want to catch up over coffee or catch the new movie that’s out. Follow them on Twitter and send appropriate tweets to them. Add a Google alert with their name and send them emails or notes when some thing cool happens in their life/career that pops up.

Don’t forget to follow-through. Did you promise to send them a link to your latest blog post? Recommended a cool Thai place for dinner? Follow through by sending the info to them, your thoughtfulness and action to cultivate the relationship will go a long way.

Remember: Following up and following through is an easy way to stay top of mind with industry influencers in a way that is authentic and helpful. Who doesn’t want to work with some one that follows through on their word?

Tip #1: Add value and cultivate reciprocal relationships.

Be willing to help others before expecting them to help you. Whenever I ask a fellow actor, writer, producer, director, or whomever for any thing, I always make it clear that I am willing to help out on their projects as well (even if it isn’t my sweet spot of acting). Grabbing Starbucks, editing a peer’s article, etc. Coming from a place of “I am valuable and I this is the value I bring,” is way more powerful than coming from a place of, “I need. I want. I lack.”

Remember: Think back to tip #3. Stand in your power and be confident. For any relationship to thrive and prosper both parties must add value to their endeavors.

Have questions on how to stop networking and start cultivating? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below!

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About Candy Washington

Actor, producer, entertainment, and fashion expert and This is Candy Washington founder, Candy Washington is a highly sought-after resource for her witty, trendy, and always entertaining style, pop culture, and acting expertise. Candy has interviewed top industry influencers including NBC’s Today Show’s style expert Bobbie Thomas, NBC’s Fashion Star winner Kara Laricks, Teen Vogue’s Eva Chen, NBC's Dancing with the Star’s Dean Banowetz, ABC’s fashion expert Lilliana Vazquez, and Bravo's The Real Housewives of New York’s Jill Zarin, and has appeared on ABC 7 as a film and entertainment expert. She was profiled Cision, the industry’s go-to standard for media professionals and is also a brand ambassador for Style in View. Additionally, she has acted in numerous films and television shows, such as Ice Cube produced, Are We There Yet? and Eggs Over Easy that premiered at The New Orleans Films Festival. Candy is a graduate of Georgetown University.