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7 Secrets to Career Success

7 Secrets to Career Success

Keith Ferrazzi for Monster

“Hey, Ray. Who do you know in the entertainment world that I can talk to for some advice about breaking into the industry?”

“There’s a guy named David who I know through mutual friends who also went to Harvard Business School. He’s a smart guy doing some creative deals in Hollywood. Give him a call.”

David and I met for coffee at an outdoor cafe in Santa Monica. He was dressed in very dapper casual LA attire. I wore a suit and tie, befitting the buttoned-down Midwestern consultant I was at the time.

After a good deal of back-and-forth, I asked David, “I’m thinking about transitioning into the entertainment industry at some point. Is there anyone you know who could lend me some helpful advice?” This seemed like a mild request, given that I was a good friend of a friend of his.

“I do know somebody,” he told me. “She is a senior executive at Paramount.”

“Great, I’d love to meet her,” I said excitedly. “Any chance of arranging a quick introduction? Maybe you could pass on an email?”

“I can’t,” he told me flatly. I was shocked, and my face showed it. “Keith, here’s the situation. It’s likely that at some point I’m going to need something from this person or want to ask a personal favor. And I’m just not interested in using the equity that I have with this individual on you, or anyone else for that matter. I need to save that for myself. I’m sorry. I hope you understand.”

But I didn’t understand. I still don’t. He thought of relationships as finite, like a pie that can only be cut into so many pieces. Take away a piece, and there was that much less for him. I knew, however, that relationships are more like muscles – the more you work them, the stronger they become.

To Succeed, Make Others Successful

Whenever I meet somebody, I try to make that person successful. But David kept score. He saw every social encounter in terms of diminishing returns. For him, there was only so much goodwill available in a relationship and only so much collateral and equity to burn.

Would it surprise you if I told you Hollywood David isn’t doing that well any longer? He hoarded the relational equity he had until he eventually looked around and discovered there was nothing more to hoard. Ten years after I met him at that Santa Monica cafe, I haven’t heard from him. In fact, no one else I know has heard from him either. Like so many industries, entertainment is a small world.

Bottom line: Don’t be a networking jerk. Don’t keep score. If your interactions are ruled by generosity, your rewards will follow suit.

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