Movie B-School: Dirty Dancing and Dirty Networking

3 minute read

Nobody puts baby in a corner, especially at a networking event.

Let me first define what “dirty networking” is before we go further. The term “dirty networking” refers to both the idea that you are using people by pretending to befriend them in hopes of selling to them, and to this study that shows some people feel physically dirty after networking events. It’s all a bit icky, and would turn anyone off to the idea of meeting people in a professional capacity.

The term for networking with the purpose of advancing your career by using those relationships is called “instrumental networking” (99u), and I want to shower just from thinking about it. I once knew someone who befriended a man solely because they knew that man was married to someone they wanted to do business with. They spent nearly a year golfing with him, getting to know him, just to get “in” with his wife. I promptly threw up, and never took business advice from that person again. There’s a right and honorable way to operate, and a way that makes you feel yucky. I optimistically call for us to all opt for the former and create a better business network full of kind and honest relationships instead of being used.

I love this movie, but it’s just full of people using one another. Chalk it up to the ‘50’s mindset, I guess? Here’s a few examples of respectful, and then dirty,  networking from the film:

Movie B-School: Dirty Dancing and Dirty Networking I North by Northwest Boise

DIRTY: “I carried a watermelon”

Baby uses the opportunity to help Johnny’s cousin carry watermelons to the back house so that she can meet her newfound crush, Johnny Castle (Patty Cakes, as I like to call him). She carries a watermelon, and soon after she gets to meet Patty Cakes, she ditches the cousin and goes for the guy she really wants.

Movie B-School: Dirty Dancing and Dirty Networking I North by Northwest Boise

CLEAN: “Go back to your playpen, Baby.”

By agreeing to help with the big dance at the Sheldrake, Baby honestly wants to aid in Penny’s availability to…(tip-toeing here) make big decisions, despite the way Penny treats her. Although it does mean she’ll get to spend time with her favorite dance instructor, she is earnest in her motivations of helping Penny, whom she ultimately admires.

Movie B-School: Dirty Dancing and Dirty Networking I North by Northwest Boise

DIRTY: “Well, it looks like I picked the wrong sister.”

Robbie is a sleazebag. A gross sleazeball, who woos Baby’s sister Lisa, so he can get to their father. Robbie wines and dines both Lisa and her parents, pretending to be a class act deserving of college tuition from the Housemans. He is not worthy, and he’s a jerk. Also DIRTY, and in the same vein, is Max’s grandson (let’s be honest, no one remembers his name) tries to make Baby his girl, because she’ll look good on his arm.

So how do you avoid dirty networking?

Don’t engage in traditional networking (99u). The best type of networking develops from treating the people you meet in a business setting the way you would any potential new friend: Listen to what they’re saying, Be there with them/engaged, respond thoughtfully, and make an effort to keep the relationship going. Networking is really about making friends, and if you can say you’re a good friend, you’ll likely do a great job with business relationships, too.

Movie B-School: Dirty Dancing and Dirty Networking I North by Northwest Boise

Putting baby in the corner equates to (in networking terms) not respecting her enough to actually listen and get to know her…it means branding her as Baby from Dirty Dancing Studios, who is a great lead for you. When you’re out there in the networking world, don’t let anyone put you in a corner…you are Miss Frances Houseman, and if you want to be more than __ who works at __, then get on stage and show ‘em you can dance. Having some Swayze arm candy doesn’t hurt your case either.


(Images via, via, via, viavia)


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About the Author

Stephanie Norell is the Marketing Director for North by Northwest’s Boise office. She loves horror movies and Pinterest, adores the classic film Xanadu, and “enjoys” disseminating her thoughts for trolls to discuss online.


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