During the inaugural Tribeca Film Festival, composer Wendell Hanes was interviewed on ABC News. He scored music for the documentary “Hip Hop Hope,” which made its debut in the festival.
Look through your contact list and find your mentor and then thank that person. All of us have a mentor or two that have helped pave the way for us. Even before we knew what networking was, we knew enough to link up with someone who could provide guidance.
My main mentor is a gentleman named Ken Simmons. Here’s the story:
In 1988, I was a junior at CW Post/LIU studying Communications. I got my first internship that fall at a place called MJI Broadcasting. I had never heard of it before, but the place was popping. The company produced shows that were syndicated on radio stations on every format around the country. Some big time folks worked there. At first, my job was to run errands, but because I showed an interest in production, Ken and Liesl, gave me a razor blade, some tape, and a grease pencil so I could make music beds. Like I said, it was 1988.
I immediately realized that Ken knew alot of folks in the urban music world. And he was nice enough to let me ask questions and soak up knowledge. When the semester ended, I made sure to stay in touch. I had no idea that I was networking. I thought I was pestering a guy who had lots of connections.
So in the next semester my PR class had to produce a symposium for our final project. We chose music. Things were not falling into place, so I called Ken. He immediately got on the phone with Doug E. Fresh‘s people (shout out to Charles Rogers). And Doug E. came out to speak to the students. Now mind you, this was now Spring 1989…Doug E. was an extremely hot name in hip-hop. I got an A. I also dressed up as Tina Turner for a publicity stunt to drum up exposure. All pictures have been burned.
And then, in 1990 after I graduated from school, I get the opportunity to interview for an assistant position in the Tommy Boy Media Relations dept. I tell Ken, and of course he knows the head of the dept. I get the job, and my entertainment publicity career gets started. At the time, the record label was busy promoting Queen Latifah, De La Soul, and Digital Underground. Not a bad way to enter the workforce.
Ken is probably more like my sensei…mentor may not be strong enough considering all the positive things that happen to me when he decides to make a phone call.
That’s why I mentor just about every chance I get. It didn’t cause Ken any anguish or stress to do those things on my behalf, yet what it meant to me was priceless and life altering. It’s my turn to pay it forward.
Thank you, Ken.
I just realized that I got my first full-time gig as a result of networking. It wasn’t about the bright young recent college graduate with the spectacular C.V. What’s funny is that in 1990, I didn’t understand what networking was all about. I don’t even think I used the term.
Here’s the story:
A friend of mine called me and said that the indie hip-hop label Tommy Boy was looking to hire an administrative assistant in the Media Relations department. The year prior, we were not friends. I did not know him. I was in a PR class and our assignment was to produce a music symposium and handle all the publicity campaigns in order to pack the house and get media there. I was reading the Music Paper and he was the only guy writing about hip-hop in the paper. I invited him to be a panelist. I also booked Doug E. Fresh to be a panelist, which was the big draw.
Ever since my friend arrived on CW Post’s sprawling campus to impart his wisdom to an auditorium full of eager students, we have been great friends ever since.
So let me get back to the story. My friend was good friends with the VP of Media Relations at Tommy Boy. She needed to hire someone yesterday, as she was going to Japan with Queen Latifah and Digital Underground. I got the job. And it was all about who I knew. And who that person knew.
And let me not forget to add that when she checked my references, she realized that another one of her really good friends was one of my supervisors at my first internship. That guy is my mentor. That really sealed the deal.
Folks have to realize that compiling great contacts along the way is essential to staying in the game. Soon-to-be-college-graduates should not only focus on GPA, but make sure they grab as many internships as possible. I really believe that internships are the first networking groups that young adults join, but I didn’t know it at the time I did my first one in 1988.
When you move up the ladder in whatever industry you are in, you will see a pattern. People are getting the titles and positions they crave because of spending time on the golf links with Ted. Or going to dinner with Susan. Or being on the same not-for-profit board as Geoff. Your work experience definitely matters, but there’s nothing wrong with having good relationships with people in a position to help you achieve your career goals. Is it nepotism?
It’s called Networking, and there’s nothing wrong with it. I would not have had this career, if I hadn’t gotten coffee for some good people.
(photo credit: explanatorium)
(Client) Wendell Hanes and Tony Aliperti visited the studios of Progressive Radio Network December 18 to appear on Heart & Soul. Earlier in the year, host Kompalya Thunderbird, had them on to discuss Wendell’s book, The 30-30 Career: Making 30 Grand in 30 Seconds! Producing Music for Commercials. Since that appearance, he has had the opportunity to promote the book to various universities, at Harlem’s Hue-Man Bookstore, the NY office of the Grammys, among other spots. So she decided to have Wendell and Tony back. Tony is a world class guitarist and songwriter who collaborates with Wendell on many ad campaigns and TV promos. Tony is best known for playing the Spanish guitar on Toni Braxton‘s “Spanish Guitar” hit.
Here’s the full interview:
Wendell Hanes on Heart & Soul 12/18/08