How to Make New Contacts with a Wingman
By, Jessica Sitomer

Iceman tells Maverick that he can be his wingman, anytime. Then Maverick replies, “You can be mine.” These guys were very competitive, and therefore, NOT ideal wingmen. I’m suggesting the Maverick/Goose relationship. They had each other’s backs and were always looking out for each other.

According to Wikipedia, a wingman is defined as a pilot who supports another in a potentially dangerous flying environment. Wingman was originally a term referring to the plane flying beside and slightly behind the lead plane in an aircraft formation.

For our purposes your wingman is your “ice-breaker.” So many people have obstacles around in-person networking. I’ve heard, “I’m shy,” “I don’t know how to break into a conversation,” and “I don’t like to go to events alone.” And these are only a few of the obstacles. Yet, in-person networking is one of the most valuable actions you can take for yourself and your career. Why? Because, face to face is the strongest form of communication.

Instead of getting caught up in the reasons why you don’t like to network, or the excuses for why you’re unsuccessful at it, accept that you must, and get yourself a wingman to help you overcome any reason or excuse.

Here are examples of how to best implement a wingman:

1.    I’m shy: Find a wingman who is outgoing, cares about you and your success, and is happy to be out and social.

Strategy: Tell your wingman how many people you want to meet, make sure your wingman knows how to introduce you, and send her off on her mission. She will find people to strike up a conversation with and pull you in.

2.    I’m fine once I start a conversation, but I don’t know how to break the ice: Find a wingman who will be your icebreaker.

Strategy: Point out to your wingman the person or group with whom you want to speak. An outgoing wingman, will bring you over and make an introduction. First he’ll introduce himself, and when the person or people make their introduction, he will introduce you. Then you’re in the conversation and you can take it from there.

3.    I can’t motivate to go to networking events: Have multiple event wingmen, who you push yourself to call and invite to events.

Strategy: Set up events in advance for the month with your various wingmen, so you can’t get out of it. When you choose your wingmen, let them know that you may get lazy or unmotivated and that they should not let you off the hook!

4.    I’m not good at “tooting my own horn”: Get a wingman who is. Let your wingman in on all of your successes and your strengths, and they will “toot that horn” for you.

Strategy: When you and your wingman get into a conversation with a person who asks what you do, you answer with the simple reply of “what you do” and your wingman jumps in and says, “Oh, she’s just being modest.” Then continues to sing your praises. Now, in this instance you’re only allowed to get away with this strategy for a little while. You’re objective is to listen to how your wingman speaks about you so that you will be able to “own” it for yourself. You must build your confidence to speak about your passion

There are specific times when it’s the easier to make new contacts! Holidays. Because opportunities are everywhere you look- PARTIES! Most unions, studios, production companies, and entertainment organizations throw holiday parties. And if you can’t find them, throw them. If any part of this is making the butterflies in your stomach flutter, or if you just plain don’t like socializing at parties, then like Maverick, you need a wingman.

Here are some tips for finding an effective wingman, none of which involve singing “You’ve lost that loving feeling.”
1.    Find a wingman who is outgoing. He/she can be in the industry but doesn’t have to be. Your wingman can also be someone whom you can potentially hire. He/she will be more motivated to introduce you to people who can hire you knowing that once you’re working, you will hire your wingman.

2.    Discuss your strategy plan with your wingman. Both of you can be on the look out for parties. Once there, your wingman knows precisely how many new people you want to meet and will share in your mission. 

3.    Should there be any awkward meetings, it is the wingman’s job to make a joke and build you back up. Time to fly again. “There are plenty of pigeons in the air.” (For your sake, I hope your wingman is better at jokes than I am).   

And Action!

1. Choose a wingman (or 2 or 3)

2. Schedule your party plan and stick to it

3. Get contact information for each new contact you make and follow up with a “happy new year” note/card (tip: carry a small notepad to jot down contact information for people who aren’t carrying business cards)

Not only are parties fun, people are also in a better mood than if you meet them in their office. Unlike the Top Gun theme song, Highway To The Dangerzone, this is your highway to the success zone.