Neworking versus Networked: The 3,000 Mile Difference
When I first moved to Los Angeles in 2005, I don't think I had ever used the word "networking." To me, in connoted carpeted hotel ballrooms, plastic name tags and insurance brokers doling out floppy business cards with head shots. But soon I began to hear it dropped here and there, casually, from the mouth's of babes -- and I do mean babes -- i.e., women wearing Lanvin with highlights from Rita Hazan, farmer's market moms with Orbit stroller systems, guys with surfboards carrying Filson. These are Thursday styles-reading, NPR devotees who work either as freelancers, business owners or hold interesting jobs in creative, dynamic fields. In other words, they were like me -- and "networking," despite the unspoken agreement that it was an icky word, was also an accepted rule of engagement for this sunny town. This gave me pause.
In New York, I never needed to try to network. It just happened. You see people walking down the street, at restaurants, at so-and-so's book party or art opening, and bam! By sheer accident, you've "networked," as it were. The city is dense, populated and full of invitations -- so it's easy to run into friends and acquaintances... and often. Just leave the apartment and there, you've done it. I'll concede that one might go to something marginally boring in order to connect with a business relationship you wouldn't otherwise see, but you would never think of it as networking -- more just necessary, and easily doable along the way to something else. In LA, however, because geographically it goes for miles and miles in each direction, driving is the required currency. An event in Hollywood when you live in Venice will inspire some loud hemming and hawing before a commitment is made. That's a long drive ... in traffic, so it better be good! The distance between you and a "happening" makes all the difference in whether you'll show up. Because of this internal negotiation, the word "networking" becomes part of your vocabulary, and you have to make a decision: "is it for fun ... networking ... or both?"
In a city that's so networked, like Manhattan, you don't have to be as proactive. In fact, if you define "networking," it essentially means using your relationships as leverage toward advancement in your career or life. Eew. That makes me want to take a Silkwood-style shower. But having said it, the truth is that in New York, the power structure is either subliminal or so overt it can't be ignored, so whether a relationship helps you get somewhere or not, that's not really the goal agenda. In fact, you have no agenda usually, but by virtue of leaving your apartment and interacting with your fellow city dwellers, you're bound to intersect, talk, plot, plan, collaborate -- but it's spontaneous, not so strategic. In LA, where everything lives or dies by "green lights," people are constantly trying to collide with trigger-pullers. One reason is that in Los Angeles, the distance between venues creates distance between relationships -- i.e., you don't see people as often or as easily, so you have to make an effort (gasp!) to be where they are, and if you're the people who may have the power to make your life better are somewhere else, then that is where a person goes. In other words, that effort should have an ROI (return on investment).
So do you go to a party at Arianna Huffington's or a book launch at Chanel? An entrepreneurial panel where you'll boost your business IQ or the Alternative Apparel holiday party where super-soft t-shirts are in all the goodie bags? In New York, you'd do it all -- it's easy, just take a train, cab or make your way by foot. In LA, you have to make choices. It ain't Sophie's Choice, but it does force you to put a stake in the ground on what or who is more important. You can't likely make it to more than two neighborhoods in a night. Less than that if you have to get home to relieve a baby sitter, or just can't stand the thought of traveling 45 minutes in your car to get somewhere you'll spend 20 minutes.
Sitting in New York, I'm exhausted looking at next week's calendar in LA. As Type A as this city is, it's also perfectly designed for the lazy or time-starved. Just leave the house and you'll get a whole lot accomplished -- without turning any ignitions. If I may just say it, I love New York. It's just so damn efficient.