In that I’m sort of a different breed of animation professional, I have to navigate through a lot of stuff that is pretty ridiculous when trying to grow as a young professional. I’m always applying to leadership programs and different young professional ventures and getting denied over and over again. I do realize that it’s partially because I live in Louisiana where connections are more important than accomplishments or degrees most times.
I feel like when I’m applying to programs or talking to people, there’s this air of “she’s in animation; what could she possibly offer.” Luckily, I’ve learned how to be more strategic lately (lately being last year). I purposely told someone I knew that I was applying to a leadership development program for one of the young professional groups here because she was a project manager for the program. Guess what...I made it in!! And then for another NOLA young professional ambassador program, I emailed someone I met in the the leadership development program because she works at the organization putting on the program. I made it into that, and during the first session, I was talking to her and she told me, “I fought for you!” I’m very appreciative of that, but I’m thinking, I’m pretty accomplished, why did she have to fight for me? I looked at the bios of some of my cohort members and I didn’t get it.
But it’s like people think, oh she just draws all day. Forget that she has worked internationally, held offices in community organizations, helped start non-profits on the side, and more. There are so many things stacked up against me when I walk into any type of networking room, whether it’s in my industry or not. I look much younger than I am, I’m black, and I’m a woman. This means I have to come up with strategies to get people to want to actually engage with me and talk to me. To be honest, I can list all of the awesome accomplishments in a quick “let’s go around the room” intro and still get crickets.
Something that I hate doing, but I’ve come to terms with is telling people that I worked on Family Guy and The Cleveland Show. I mean, it was so long ago now, it’s barely relevant, but it transforms a half-listener into a fully engaged conversational partner in seconds. I’ve literally seen people’s whole body language change towards me after mentioning that.
Something that was upsetting recently was that for the ambassador program, they asked us to submit our bios, so of course I put the TV shows I worked on in there. Again, strategy. I go to read the bio sheet they gave to the cohort members and someone removed the list of shows and replaced it with “many shows.” Who DOES that? If someone is giving you their bio, out of all of the things you would remove, do you think a person wants you to remove the fact that they worked on famous television shows? You removed my bread and butter from someone randomly coming up to me and saying, “hey, I saw you worked on Batman. How was that?”
Don’t let me get started on the struggles of networking at an animation event...goodness. I went to an event one time and I wasn’t sure who was there for the event because it was at a bar. I kind of figured out who the group possibly could be and I go over and linger. They literally moved several times from where I was and I had to follow them around. Apparently, a black woman couldn’t possibly be here for the animation event. I just ended up leaving. I attend virtual reality and other meetups and I end up standing somewhere alone unless I know someone there. It’s hard figuring out where you fit when wherever you go people make you feel like you don’t belong. I can only hope for the best and hope that I can figure out the ways of the world. Wish me luck!
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