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What We Talk About When We Talk About Networking

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    NEWSLETTERS

    John Audley
    It's great to be out, but what are you about?

    The other big hat — and I wear many large hats — I wear is my Second City-teaching/web series-producing/comedy-in-general hat. What it has in common with my small-biz hat is, well, actually, a lot. But there's also a lot of commonalities between those communities beyond my hat. In the entrepreneurial community and the comedy community there is a pervading sense of people not really wanting to be where they currently are. Not necessarily geographically, but moreso career trajectory-wise.

    And so each community has lots of members who cling to networking as failsafe shortcuts. As in: I will meet someone incredible who thinks I’m incredible and it will be incredible because they will take me to the next step where everyone else will know I’m incredible.

    And so what we’re talking about when we’re talking about networking is really beautiful things like faith and optimism and passion. But we’re also talking about, with this kind of mindset, the purely selfish side of all this. The greedy sense that if you deviate from your pattern, someone else will supplement your shortcomings.

    I am not wanting to say anything universal or make a sloppy blanket statement, but this has been heavily on my mind as I’ve begun to work on one of the most important aspects of post-production for my aforementioned web series: promotion. As in: How do we get people to care about this thing we’ve created without the alluring (but ultimately ineffectual) hard sell?

    I suspect the answer for that, along with networking, is that you should use it as a tool that is one of many in your belt. You wouldn’t use a hammer alone to build a house, right? But a hammer is very useful, for example, with nails and lumber and... you get the idea.

    There’s also a Zen-like component to all this: The less pressure you put on things to happen, and the more you just do your job and put that North Star out of your mind and trust you’re working towards it, the more likely it is to eventually come to fruition. If you are too busy promoting what you do and stop creating, is it really true that you are what you’re representing yourself as? I don’t think so. And I doubt you’d argue otherwise.

    I was chatting with a friend of mine who recently joined the freelance world shared his philosophy on this with me, which I’d like to pass along to you because it is great.

    “Anything that’s less than explicit you shouldn’t put as much stock on it. Work hard in spite of it and don’t wait for it. Push it, but keep pushing on other things as well. If you just generate more things going for you, you get more leverage, and more opportunities.”

    David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as IFC’s comedy, film, and TV blogger, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City and an adjunct professor in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.