First of all I have to apologise for updating a day late. Extreme circumstances: I was in Wales. Anti-welsh jokes aside, I had a posting mapped out, then got to Cardiff late on Monday night only to discover the next morning that I had no internet access whatsoever, and due to work and random events that will be detailed later, I have only been able to sit down at my internet-accessing laptop at this ridiculous hour. IT WILL NOT HAPPEN AGAIN!
The blog posting I had planned out was a discussion on the prospect of the spending review being announced the next day, and what the conservative/liberal coalition government might mean for my generation of Brits. Only 24 hours later, it doesn’t make any sense due to the budget being announced, and it being quite different to what was expected. So expect reworked political musings next week (on time, no excuses).
Instead, for reasons that will become clear: networking. In principal, I hate networking. As a young person setting out in the world of Theatre, it is an ever present concept that simply makes me shudder. I hate the idea of approaching and using people as ‘contacts’, as someone who can be utilised or even trod on to get yourself ahead in your career. To me, it smacks of a falseness that makes my skin crawl. Now, I know I’m naïve, and idealistic. I’m fully aware that networking does not make you a bad person, and it’s a necessary part of every career path regardless of the industry you choose. I guess it’s just that I would infinitely prefer being hired for a job because of talent or experience or even just ‘good egg-ness’ rather than because I knew the right person. I would also rather hire someone myself based on worth instead of contacts. In bleak moments I have actually cried at the prospect of having to treat ‘friends’ as contacts, viewing myself as a nice person who is NOT out to network. I would shout this from the rooftops!
Yet, looking back over the last six months, and particularly today I can see that I could consider myself a complete hypocrite. For example, my final project for my masters I needed a cast of 16, 13 of which needed to be guys. Male actors in a university drama department are like gold dust, yet I held 1 audition for only two roles. The rest I could fill with actors I had worked with previously – most of them multiple times – or frankly friends who could act. I also contacted people I had seen act in various things, and never had the opportunity to work with before then. I cast people I knew in roles I knew would work well for them and for me. Networking much?
Since moving home, in an attempt to earn some money and keep busy while I look for something other than part time work, I have set up a drama group for children which is due to have its first session next week. The woman I’m running it with I met at a training day, completely unrelated to drama – we got chatting, and on hearing that she was interested in doing something like that (just generally) I seized the opportunity and told her I was looking for a partner. Even in a completely random, non-theatre situation it seems this ‘non-networker’ had an ‘ooh, contact!’ moment. Later, I had mini crisis of conscience when the church hall we’re hiring for the workshops offered us a months free rent, because I had grown up as a church member, and still know a large part of the congregation. Should I feel bad that I’m ‘using’ my faith to gain an advantage for my new business, or view it as the Church simply wanting to support a venture that could raise their profile? Jury’s still out on that one.
Finally, however, today has perhaps changed my view on the whole thing. As I said above, I hate, hate, hate feeling like I’m using friends as contacts – especially as I have many incredibly talented, creative, pro-active friends who I know will go very far in whatever they choose to do. I love to promote whatever people I know are doing, and will always try to attend performances etc – and have always jokingly said that as soon as I get any kind of directing break I have a list of people I will hire on the spot.
I woke up this morning, in Cardiff (visiting a very good friend, and my little brother) to find a couple of missed calls from another friend – someone who’s definitely on my ‘to hire’ list, being not only a very good friend but also one of the most talented and hard working people I’ve ever met. It was slightly odd as he doesn’t normally call, and certainly not repeatedly, unless it’s urgent, however running late and having to drive 2 hours back home to work this afternoon, I didn’t manage to call him back until midday. When I did, he told me that the theatre company he’d worked for last year were urgently looking for female actors in my area for their theatre-in-education tour, and he’d recommended me, and that I should call them. I did, was given an audition this evening (straight after work), at which the manager told me that my friend had told him to hire me on the spot. Which, once I’d auditioned and they’d finished for the evening, they did. So I’m starting rehearsals tomorrow morning for a full time, well paid job in one of the areas I want to work in – almost entirely down to someone I would certainly consider a friend, not a ‘contact’.
It’s interesting how the world works. Maybe I should just stop worrying, and just concentrate on keeping in touch with the people I really value – whether that’s because I think they could be good to work with in the future, or because I care about them immensely – or both. My dad’s always said “it’s who you know, not what you know that really matters” and he wasn’t just talking about work. I think he might be right.