It really is about who you know.
Don’t get me wrong – you need to know the craft. It doesn’t matter who you know if you can’t write, but once you’ve finished that manuscript it’s time to put the nerves and fear in a box so you can network, network, network.
This picture here is one of my favorites. It’s from the Write-to-Publish Conference at Wheaton College in June 2009. That lovely woman is Diana Flegal, an agent with Hartline Literary and quite the hockey fan. We bonded over the Stanley Cup Play-offs (even though we were rooting for opposing teams). Since then we’ve stayed in touch.
This year Diana was the only Hartline agent not at the ACFW conference. Since I follow their company blog, however, I recognized the other agents. One night as we waited and waited and waited for the elevators, I saw two of Diana’s colleagues. I introduced myself and told them how much I enjoyed knowing Diana. I wasn’t prepared for the fifth sentence of the conversation:
“Well then, what’ve you got for me?”
I wasn’t trying to pitch anything at the conference, but I especially wasn’t trying to pitch at that moment. I just thought I’d say hi and kill some time.
That was a priceless lesson for me. I didn’t need an appointment. I didn’t even need to put on an act. I was just being myself, meeting the friend of a friend while I waited. She didn’t need to see my credentials or one sheet – it was enough for her that I knew Diana and that we were friends.
Please don’t misunderstand me – I am in no way encouraging you to meet and use people to advance your career. I am suggesting, however, that you prepare yourself. Let yourself make friends and nurture those relationships. If you really don’t like a person, then don’t force it. Let it happen organically. While you’re at it, write, study, and go to conferences. Then…be ready. The right name might open the right door.
QUESTION: Have you ever made a good career connection because of someone you knew? Or, have you helped someone in their career?