There’s always an excuse for movie night.
This time around, we’re studying some of our favorite films for hints on that valuable but hard-to-pin-down skill: networking.
Of course, we’re also looking to have some fun. While the lessons gleaned from these movies won’t do any harm, take them with a grain of salt. After all, these networkers had a director standing off-screen, determining their every move. In real life, we’re on our own.
On the hunt for some strategies we could execute without that director, we found seven characters who are determined, exacting, bold and brave, which is how we should all be when we’re looking to further our careers. Check out their savvy strategies and decide which one should be your next move.
1. Let Your Passion Show
In “Almost Famous,” William, the 15-year-old wunderkind, had it right. He knew what he wanted: To write about rock ‘n’ roll. He found someone that he admired doing just that: Lester Bangs, editor of Creem magazine. And he figured out ways to engage Bangs and pick his brain: He sent him clips of his writing from his school paper, then sought him out to have a face-to-face conversation. His first assignment came not from asking for one, but by showing Bangs how passionate he was about music and his desire to write about it. With Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere behind you, it’s easier than ever to get your work out there for everyone to see.
2. Believe in What You’re Selling
When it comes to landing your dream job, you are your own marketing team, and the product you’re selling is you. If you don’t believe in your own value, you’re going to have a hard time convincing others of it. That’s the lesson Paul Rudd learns in the bro-mantic comedy, “I Love You, Man.” While it’s actually his friend, played by Jason Segel, who arranges for bold billboards touting his character’s real estate prowess to grace L.A., the lesson is the same for all of us: Believe in what you’re selling, and you’ll see results.
3. Contacts Are Everywhere
In “Legally Blonde 2,” when Elle Woods is busy petitioning the Washington elite to stop animal testing, she knows that personal contacts are the way the job gets done. Ultimately, it’s a conversation at the hairdresser, with a fellow sorority sister turned powerful Congresswoman, that lands her her big break in getting a bill in motion. The takeaway? Business is personal, and you never know whether a childhood friend, former neighbor or member of your alumni network will help you reach your goals.
4. Do Your Research
When you finally get that face-to-face with someone who works for your dream company or client, you want to be able to show them that you’re fan of what they do. Know their recent projects, accolades, acquisitions, etc. Remember when Matthew McConaughey’s character in “How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days” was able to rattle off impressive stats about the magazine where Kate Hudson’s character worked? Even the toughest cookies will not only be impressed that you did your homework, but they’ll be flattered that you’re interested in their work.
5. Be Willing to Work for It
Sometimes the best (read: only) way to make connections and show off your skills is to get busy working in whatever industry you’re interested in. This is especially true when switching career paths, and unfortunately, this might mean starting at the bottom. Take, for example, Drew Barrymore’s character in “Going the Distance.” She’s 31 years old, in graduate school for journalism and working for the summer as an intern at a New York City newspaper. And while it can be a bit humbling to be the oldest or most experienced person in your position, if it’s gearing you up for where you want to go, it’s worth it in the end.
6. Show Your Spark
While Justin Timberlake’s portrayal of Sean Parker in “The Social Network” might have been more than a bit smarmy, Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg is nevertheless dazzled after their first meeting. And while plenty of business was discussed during that first boozy dinner, its most profound impact was the fact that Zuckerberg left impressed by Parker and open to signing him on in the future. When networking, the goal isn’t just hitting all the right bullet points on your résumé, but demonstrating that you’re personable, engaging and someone that others would like to work with.
7. Know the Players
If you’re determined to make it in a particular industry, you should know who the important people are, what they do and how they got there. No one understood this better than Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada.” As the fictional Editor in Chief of a fashion magazine, she had her two assistants memorize everyone who would be in attendance at a big, important benefit so that each guest would leave with the impression that Priestly knew them personally. Next time you have an important industry event, lean on LinkedIn to make sure you know how to work the room like a pro.