Editor’s Note: This article is part 3 of a series by Dave Jolley, an accomplished drummer who recently moved to New York City and is settling into a new life and a new scene.
There’s this elegant, seductive, and sometimes profane dance we all have to do. It goes by the name of ‘Networking’. Some are masters at it. Your present company is not.
It was a startling jolt to my system when I discovered that much of what I am trying to do is based not on my proficiency at my instrument (or lack thereof) but upon who I know, who knows me, and what we have surmised we can do for each other.
It feels a bit like I’m pulling back the curtain on the wizard over here.
It should be fairly obvious. I can’t think of an industry out there where the idea of ‘who you know’ isn’t at least a part of how the business operates. It’s on every resume in the world under the heading ‘references’. We all get jobs by knowing the right people and having those people exert whatever influence they might have on whoever is doing the hiring.
I have so crassly decided to categorize these into old and new friendships. In what could be the most obvious proclamation on the whole of the internet, I am here today to tell you that friendships matter greatly.
One of the biggest mitigating factors of our move to New York was the fact that it has the largest concentration of our friends of anywhere in the world. It is also a hub that many other friends pass through often. This gives us the opportunity to see people who are important to us more often than the once every few years that we had grown used to.
I would have never considered moving to New York had I not had a bevy of incredibly loyal and loving friends living here and encouraging me to do so. They provide a safety net. This support can come in many different guises, from the practical to the emotional.
We needed a place to live. Friends offered their apartment for sublet though it broke a long standing rule about not renting to friends as to maintain a business relationship with the renter.
When unemployed and struggling to find work, I’ve alternately been overpaid by friends to transcribe, babysit, and write articles though these are things I would have gladly done for free had my financial situation been different.
I had another friend get me an interview to assist a jazz luminary’s widow in the day to day operations of running the estate and tribute bands. My friend’s boss was the this woman’s daughter in law. There’s a stretched connection for you.
Turns out I wasn’t IT savvy enough for the gig (huge surprise) but it was incredible to sit in her living room surrounded by her late husband’s instruments and hear her call Dexter and Sonny by first name. A familiarity with the legends usually reserved only for undergrad jazz majors…
Perhaps most importantly, I have at least ten numbers on my phone that I can dial and the person who picks up would walk through the fire with me without hesitation or question.
A trusted confidant recently told me that I am slightly ahead of the game based upon one fact. I have people at different rungs up the ladder from where I am who believe in me and are willing to push my product. Most if not all of the people I have met and who have consequently hired me since I moved here have come through these friends. These same friends also hire me whenever possible.
So how do I parlay these votes of confidence into dollah dollah bills? The rub therein lies.
It should be said that though I am roundly considered by most to be an absolute joy to be around, (ahem), were it not for some level of proficiency at my job, the above mentioned patrons would be great friends from afar. Neither myself nor anyone I’ve met in this business would be willing to stake their reputation on you or me if it could possibly paint them in a bad light. It would be delusional to expect such a thing, friend or no.
Knocking on doors until the call comes is one thing. Getting the call and delivering the goods is quite another.
Last year after the tour was over, some friends (see the pattern?) let us live in their incredible apartment in Manhattan for a month for free under the auspices of dogsitting while we got our bearings and worked out all the life stuff. It was our first month in the big bad city and provided us with a ‘soft landing’.
One particularly savvy, well liked, and well networked friend introduced me via email to a drummer friend of his. My old friend suggested that my new friend organize a ‘drummer meet up’ some time in the near future. He had had some success meeting and networking through these meet ups in the past and thought that it would be a good way for me to meet some people and start making some contacts. Drummers hire drummers.
It was my first dalliance into the netherworld of networking. It consisted of a lot of beer buying and verbal resume sharing. Many times I felt myself minus a container of sorts in which to catch all of the names being dropped. The majority of whom I hadn’t ever heard of, it should be mentioned. The needle of my hubris and hokum meter was buried at times.
The hardest part of this dance was what I call the ‘size up’. On a crude level they find out what I’ve done, what I’m about to do, who I know, and most importantly, what I can do for them. And then I do it back. A coarse and vulgar exercise or a keystone in the foundation of this network I’m building? Both, I think.
I was and continue to be pretty far out of my comfort zone when it comes to the politics of networking. There just doesn’t seem to be an uncontaminated way to go about it. However, Reality cares not for my weak constitution and has not offered to change the rules of the game just because I’m squeamish in such matters.
Before we tip the scales too far to cynicism, let me say that out of that experience I have made a couple of new friends whom I think will become old friends with time. I’ve been welcomed into a circle of likeminded drummers with similar goals and interest. While true that we are competing for the same jobs, it hasn’t stopped anyone from feeling genuine elation for one another’s successes.
And that ain’t nothin’.