(Warning: Hollywood name-dropping and a free offer lie ahead.)
Job counselors stress the importance of networking in a job hunt. If you know the right people, you can get the right job.
I’ve done a lot of improv comedy, during which I took a couple of classes with Lisa Kudrow before she became Phoebe on Friends. One of my teachers was Ryan Stiles, who’s been a regular/recurring player on Two and a Half Men and other sitcoms. My peers included Wyatt Cenac, who went on to do The Daily Show and the new TBS sitcom People of Earth, and Derek Waters, host and co-creator of Comedy Central’s Drunk History.
I worked at Disney Publishing when one of the creative directors was Russell Hicks, who became president of Nickelodeon. Another executive, Michael Lynton, is CEO of Sony Entertainment.
Oh, and I went to high school with writer-producer Jonathan Prince.
So I’ve got contacts for all kinds of opportunities, right?
Slow down, hoss. Here are the only cases when knowing people has helped me get important jobs:
1) I was an editor at the Los Angeles Times’ newspaper syndicate when Lee Nordling called. Lee had been the syndicate’s art director but had decamped for Disney Pubs. He called to say that the company had an opening for an editor, and he told me the name of the hiring manager to call. Eventually, I got the job.
2) A few years later, Disney laid off a bunch of publishing people, including me. I got a call from Peter David, a writer I knew from Disney. Peter was writing for the publishing house Claypool Comics, said that it could use someone of my skills, and put me in touch with one of the company’s partners, Richard Howell. Another time, Peter was writing for the independent movie company Full Moon Entertainment and brought me in to meet its boss, Charles Band, to discuss setting up a Full Moon publishing house.
God bless Lee and Peter in multifarious ways. Why did they contact me when others didn’t?
It’s not that the others are bad or selfish. They’re all fine, helpful people.
But I had worked with Lee for years at the Times. Since I was comics editor and he was art director, we were teammates, conferring daily over problems with cartoonists and management.
And I edited most of the stories that Peter wrote at Disney, particularly the very successful Little Mermaid comic-book series — circulation over 150,000 per issue, featuring stories that are still being reprinted. Month after month, Peter and I worked closely together.
That’s the difference. It’s not enough to meet people or even get to know them. I don’t know about you, but if I want people to recommend me, we usually have to share a foxhole — suffering together over meeting goals and deadlines, relieving each other of burdens, and challenging each other to make the work better.
So here’s my offer to any Facebook friend, Twitter follower, or LinkedIn contact: If you need a writer, editor, researcher, or marketer, get in touch, even if you have little or no money. If I know that I’m right for the gig, I’ll give good service — pro bono, if I have to.
And for other job hunters busily buzzing around networking events and other meet-‘n’-bleats — keep at it, and good luck. I hope your way works for you.