Swimming with Sharks

Once I started teaching my USC summer class, I found myself talking a great deal about the benefits of networking and schmoozing. I'd also listen to the guest speakers I'd bring in who, unsolicited, would reiterate and emphasize the significance of networking from their own perspectives. I would routinely have students do research on networking organizations and always stressed how important it is for them to keep in touch, because they are each other's first network.

For the students who would bond with me and with each other, the most difficult part of the class is when it ends, and they realize their new source of encouragement and feedback is over. And it was hearing that disappointment each summer, in addition to having just spent the previous six weeks discussing the significance of networking that made me start thinking of starting a new networking organization, one that would supply a continuing source of learning, resources and support.

There are several good networking groups out there (Women In Film included), and many offer a snack (or a meal), a guest speaker or panel and a chance to mingle, which is beneficial in its own right. But what came out of working with film students and knowing what they and others truly need was a vision for an organization that would go one step further in helping to further the career goals of its members. So in November 2000, I put the word out to friends, colleagues and former students and reserved the back room of a neighborhood restaurant. Seventeen of us showed up for that first meeting. It is now four years later. Our group became known as Film Industry Network (or FIN for short). We're a nonprofit corporation that meets monthly at a major studio and has a sizable membership that includes people of all ages from all facets of the industry and varying career levels. We, too, offer snacks and guest speakers, but we also have ongoing committees and programs that do indeed further careers. And our catchy motto is, Learn to swim with the sharks .. .but not as bait.

Being involved with FIN from its inception, I've seen first hand and many times over, people making great connections; helping each other; finding opportunities, mentors, job leads and new friends. The best thing, like the class, is the support. It's great to know you're with a group of people who understand what you're going through and share your passion for the industry. And many of our members belong to more than one organization, which only multiplies their chances of making meaningful connections.

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