My first real career dream, and by that I mean one I actively pursued, came when I was 14 years old. It was then that I decided that I wanted to be an actress, live in Hollywood, and be as famous as Jennifer Aniston. I pursued this dream by signing up with Stone Model and Talent, which led me to audition for the International Modeling and Talent Association (IMTA) bi-annual conference in Los Angeles, California. I was selected, among others, to represent our agency at this conference and compete in various acting challenges in front of managers and agents at world-renowned modeling and talent agencies all over the world.

In preparation for this event, I had to go through some rigorous training, but I also learned some valuable lessons in networking.

Yup, that's me!

1. Be prepared. This conference was a one-stop-shop. Everyone attending stayed in the same hotel, and the entire conference took place there. You never had to leave because the lower levels were a complete shopping mall, food court, pretty much everything you would need. Therefore, you might be standing in line at Starbucks and an agent from Ford Models would be ordering in front of you. We were instructed to always carry multiple copies of our headshots and resumes for situations just like these. To be caught without them, could cost you a callback, an audition, and ultimately a job. The same goes for us today. While it might not be practical to carry multiple copies of your resume with you everywhere you go, it definitely doesn’t hurt to keep a few business cards in your wallet or purse. You never know where you will make a connection, so make sure that you have something with you so that they’ll remember you.

2. Be confident. Another piece of advice we received before attending this conference was to talk to everyone with an agent badge on, whether or not they represented models or actors. Now, for a 14-year-old, it can be pretty intimidating to walk up to the head of an agency, but if we wanted to be noticed outside of our competitions and have a better shot at a callback at the end of the week, you had to tap the agent ordering coffee in front of you on the shoulder, pitch yourself, and hand over your headshot/resume. Networking events can be intimidating. But you have to be confident, take a deep breath, and just put yourself out there. And remember to talk to everyone you can, even if they might not be in an industry you’re specifically interested in. I hear it every day, “Its about who you know.” Someone you meet might know someone who can help you out more directly, but you shouldn’t ignore people at events because they don’t specifically relate to you.

So, while my career goals have changed today, I learned some positive lessons that I think we can all use today. What other networking lessons would you add to the list?

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