Get Connected is an online course on acting career networking in which Jona Xiao, the course teacher, teaches how to advance your acting career through building relationships with high-status industry professionals.
- Express gratitude
- Be a go-giver and serve others
- Create win-win situations
About The Professor: Jona Xiao is an actress, member of the Emmy Nominating Committee, a recurring speaker for SAG/AFTRA, and the CEO of Career ACTivate. She’s developed and refined her very own networking process to book work as an actor and taught her students how to do the same.
Her definition of networking:
Definition: “True networking is one, being a go-giver. Two, serving people. Three, creating win-win situations.”
Here, Xiao teaches that the best way to successful networking is to understand that:
Xiao: “It’s not about saying the right things, but listening to what people say [listening for where and how you can add value to their lives].”
Her Professional Networking Process
- Start with your current network. (Make a list of everyone in your network — this includes friends, family, acquaintances, your barber, and any other contacts you may have.)
- Get clear on your goals. (What exactly are you after?)
- Share your goals with each of the members of your current network.
- After sharing your goals with your connections, get two referrals from the ones you gave value.
- Send a “thank you” to your original connection who made those two referrals for you.
- Meet with the two suggested new contacts you were referred to.
- Share your goals with those new contacts and ask for advice on how to reach those goals.
- Ask each of those two new contacts to refer you to two more people who can give you more clarity on your goals.
- Send another “thank you” to the original connection and a “thank you” to the two new contacts you just met with.
- Repeat steps six through eight.
*Psst…If you want a more robust version of this networking strategy, check out Step Four of The Clever Connector.
Her Email Networking Process
#1. Figure out who you want to build a relationship with.
Narrow down the contacts you have in mind who could add the most value to your career goals.
#2. Check if there’s anyone in your network who can introduce you via email.
If not, head to the next step.
#2.2 If not, send them a cold email yourself.
Follow the five C’s (AKA: the “Five C’s Framework”) for crafting your email while being “aggracive.”
Being aggracive means:
Definition: “aggressive with grace — an approach to interacting with others focused on getting what you want without breaking rapport”
Now, back to crafting the email itself, this is the Five C’s Framework to create your cold email:
- Common ground: establish common ground to build rapport (find and introduce something you both have in common. The more atypical or unique your common ground, the more rapport you’ll build).
- Connect from the heart: find something personal or even deeply personal to the other side that you can empathize with.
- Compliment: give the other side a genuine, heart-felt compliment.
- Concise: keep the email short and sweet.
- Closer: use a closer that encourages the receiver to respond
An example of an email closer that Xiao recommends is:
Xiao: “If you would be able to spare a few minutes for a brief phone conversation or perhaps meet up for a quick coffee at your office in Santa Monica, I’d be more than grateful.”
Her Phone Networking Process
#1. Figure out who you want to build a relationship with.
Once again, think about who can help you with your career goals.
#2. Call them.
If you get hit with their assistant when you call them (which is basically a gatekeeper), recruit them to your side so they’ll put you through.
If their assistant answers the phone, follow this process:
- Introduce yourself
- Frame yourself as being one of their boss’ “supporters”
- Let them know it wouldn’t take more than two minutes
- Ask for their help to get through
Here’s an example phone script Xiao shares for getting passed a gatekeeper:
You: “Hi, it’s [your name], calling for [name of target contact].”
Them: “What is this regarding?”
You: “I’m a [your profession] and a huge supporter of his. I [insert what prompted you to call, such as you just read their interview in The Hollywood reporter] and have finally built up the courage to call him for one specific piece of advice. It wouldn’t take more than two minutes of his time. Is there any way you can help me get through to him? I really, really appreciate whatever you can do.”
#3. When your target connection answers the phone, get their advice.
When your target connection answers the phone, follow this process:
- Introduce yourself
- Quickly establish common ground
- Tell them how you know them
- Ask for permission to get their advice
- Let them know that it shouldn’t take more than two minutes of their time
Another phone script Xiao shares is:
Xiao: “Hey [their name], my name is [your name], [quickly establish common ground such as by saying “fellow Gemini here”] I know this might sound a bit odd, but I’m a [your profession] and a huge supporter of yours. I [insert what prompted you to call, such as you just read their interview in The Hollywood reporter] and have finally built up the courage to call you for one specific piece of advice, and it shouldn’t take more than two minutes of your time. May I?”
#4. After receiving their advice, get their contact information.
After asking your question and receiving their advice, open up the opportunity to deepen your relationship with that target connection.
Xiao recommends you say here:
Xiao: “Thank you so much for being so generous with your time. If I have the occasional tough question—very occasional—is there any chance I could keep in touch via email?”
Her Event and Meeting Networking Process
#1. Find your industry hotspots.
These industry hotspots will be your networking locations. And, A quick Google search will reveal a lot in terms of the best networking events and locations for you to attend.
Attend based on what your target connections would want to attend, NOT based on your profession.
For example, if you’re an actor, do not attend networking events for actors. Attend networking events for filmmakers. That way, you will run into the same people you want to book you for work — directors, producers, etc.
#2. Start networking!
Avoid obsessing over who the right or perfect person is to talk to. You never what kinds of connections the people that you’re around might have, so focus more on simply picking one and sparking an engaging conversation. (Even if they don’t seem “perfect” for your goals, they might be able to introduce you to someone who is — you don’t know who they might know.)
A good way to spark engaging conversation is by asking questions that encourage engagement within the conversation.
So, for example, you can ask, “What’s currently a challenge you are facing in your work?” Then, you can listen from the point-of-view of thinking how you could help — perhaps by connecting them with someone.
#3. Do an immediate follow-up after the event or meeting.
Ask for the best way to stay connected with them in your follow-up.
For example, say:
You: “I enjoyed our conversation about [interesting topic you discussed] at [where you met]. I enjoy building new friendships, and it seems we have some things in common, so I’d love to stay in touch. What’s the best way to stay connected with you?”)
As an alternative to asking them for the best way to stay connected in your follow-up, you can also simply offer to take them out to lunch or coffee.
#4. Keep in touch with your connection.
The moment you stop keeping in touch is the moment your relationship with your connection begins to fade.
Real Life Applications
Avoid putting any of the high-status people you meet or connect with on a pedestal
This is what sociologist, Lucio Buffalmano, calls a “‘you’re different’ judge role” (judging them as being “different from all of the rest” or “special”).
Buffalmano notes that what it does to the receiver is:
- It puts them on a pedestal: which is always bad. It empowers them too much and it disempowers you. Good relationships are more balanced.
- It puts them in a cage: which is a positive judge power move. So, they are now forced to keep proving themselves to you as “different” and “special?” They don’t want to do that. They want to be and feel free to act “normal”
- It breaks rapport: because people want to be understood and appreciated for who they are, as people. And, people are often not that different. Putting them on a pedestal puts them in an isolated category, where they likely don’t want to be.
Relies somewhat heavily on soft power
She recommends saying things such as, “I would greatly appreciate a response,” and “I have finally built up the courage to call you,” all of which are intended to put an element of emotional pressure on the other side to do what you want unless they want to risk facing your “emotional punishment” as a negative judge (such as potential criticism, disappointment, and so on).
It’s not the most high-quality way to get what you want and anyone power-aware enough to see those judge dynamics will likely be annoyed (and possibly “disappoint you” on purpose simply to prove that you don’t have that power over them).
Encourages covert power moves
She recommends saying, “How can I help you,” as a way of establishing collaborative frames.
But, this is a covert power move because it doesn’t ask if there’s a way to help, it assumes there’s a way. And, that suggests that the person you’re talking to needs your help.
And, that’s likely to annoy anyone who feels they don’t need your help.
Ignores positive sentence structure
The emails she recommends sending as cold reach-outs sometimes use negative sentence structure which harms your influence over the individual you’re trying to persuade to connect with you.
If you want to, check out this case study I did on one of the closers in her emails that had negative sentence structure.
Recommended communication felt too high-warmth at times
Sometimes it felt like the networking advice mistook being respectful with being overly-friendly. And, that can cause you to come across as submissive.
This can work for women because submissive communication can help them come across as more feminine and, as a result, more attractive. Though, even that has its repercussions if done improperly (men getting the wrong idea about your intentions and misinterpreting your communication as sexual interest).
But, a more dominant communication style (without overdoing it) can avoid the cons of a more submissive communication style and increase you chances of compliance because it helps you come across as “high-power.”
Recommends you invite them for coffee
And, that’s a “what’s in it for them” (WIIFT) fail.
In other words, inviting them to coffee causes you to come across as a taker because it communicates, “In the middle of the day, right when you’re probably working, let’s have a casual conversation while I ask you a ton of questions. And, just in case I decide to pay, it’ll be cheap for me (that’s probably what your input is worth, anyway).”
An exception would be if you’re so high-status, your very presence raises the status of those around you (which would be a form of giving value and make going to coffee more of a win-win).
But, putting all of the exceptions aside, as a general rule, avoid this.
Recommends poor word choice at times
For phone networking, Xiao recommends you let the target connection know that your question shouldn’t take more than two minutes of their time.
But, “shouldn’t” and “won’t” are two different things. By saying “shouldn’t,” they might start to think, “Well, what if it does take longer than that? I have this and that to do…”.
If you want to increase your chances of compliance, it’s best to use the word choice that shows the most respect for (and understanding of) their time, position, and incentives to speak with you.
And, when you’re dealing with a busy, high-status individual who’s currently getting nothing out of speaking with you, hinting that you might take a lot of their time along with any value you want from them heavily reduces your chances of getting a “yes.”
Up-to-date industry hotspot recommendations
A list of all of the hotspots where celebrities hang out. Loved this.
A lesson on how to get any celebrity’s contact information
Once again, this part was also awesome.
The ego boost of having so and so’s phone number aside, the possibilities for what you could achieve with networking expand exponentially when you can contact any celebrity.
And, this lesson helps you do that.
Shares some proven scripts and why they worked
And, if you’ve been reading here for a while, you know I’m all about practical, applicable takeaways from any piece of learning material.
Plus, she also gives frameworks to use so that you can craft your own messages and scripts that work (such as the “Five C’s Framework” in her email networking process).
Shares networking strategies that work regardless of your profession
Whether you’re an actor or not, if you got any value from Xiao’s approaches above, then there’s information in this course that can help you reach new heights in your career.
Get Connected (8/10): There are some areas where it could improve, sure, but no course is perfect. This was the first course I took on networking and it was the course that inspired me to start my journey to becoming a master networker.
Currently, this course is being updated into the course Get Connected & Get Known. And, if the updated edition addresses the cons above, it could be a nine out of ten course or higher (a ten out of ten if it shared recordings of real networking phone calls and virtual meetings).
You can get more ideas in this course on social strategy.