Networking is a BAD WORD

Stop networking. Make friends.

While living in Los Angeles, I read countless books and been to many seminars that say that same thing: networking is important.

Now, I don’t think most people know how to network. I hate the word “networking” to be honest. It confuses relationship building with collecting a bunch of people for your database. It needs to be more than that.

The definition of the verb NETWORK according to Google: to interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further ones career.

The entertainment industry, or any industry, makes networking seem like this huge thing when in reality it’s just building relationships with people, and I don’t think most people know how to do that. They all suffer from the problem I used to have…

Everyone looks for what they can GET from others.

It’s all about building relationships, not “networking.”

When making new friends or rebuilding relationships you already have, DO NOT look for how they can benefit you.

I think the problem at networking events is that most people go into them with an agenda. For example, maybe they have a project and are looking for a good cinematographer, so if they meet you and you’re something else, the conversation may go like this:

Producer: I’m Jon, nice to meet you.

Writer: Great to meet you, Jon. Anthony.

Producer: So what do you do?

Writer: I’m a writer. Director too, but mostly screenwriter.

Producer (disappointed): Oh okay.

Writer: How about you?

Producer: Actually, I gotta go over there… will you excuse me?

This has happened to me more than once. There are people out there that will literally walk away from you if you are not what they’re looking for. Now hey, maybe that Producer is hustling and will find what they are seeking, but I also don’t think the Producer is thinking long term.

Does he consider I may know cinematographers? Does he consider I have friends that fit his needs? Does he consider that I know producers that can possibly help him on his journey? By his actions, no.

I also raise an eyebrow at people looking for something specific at a networking event. It tells me they haven’t tapped into their own network of friends, or they actually lack that network. Because if you had built it in the long term, you will have plenty of people to ask that you already know — and because they know you, they’re more than likely to be able to help you in some way, even if it’s just advice or guidance.

So what can you do instead?

When You Meet New People, Get to Know Them First

Do your very best not to start your new relationship with “what do you do?”

If you can through any means possible, talk about anything else. You’ll be further ahead of most people already.

ALMOST EVERYBODY ASKS, “WHAT DO YOU DO?”

Frasier — Season 9, Episode 5 “Love Stinks” — Frasier’s Producer Roz is dating a garbage man and is embarrassed by his line of work although he’s an awesome guy, becoming frustrated with others always needing to know “what do you do?” as if it’s the most important thing about the person.

It’s the most redundant question in business networking and adulthood. You are defined by what you do. Avoid it and it makes you more human. The more human you are, the more likely people will remember you.

Instead of WHAT DO YOU DO? right out the gate (you’re just barely learning this person’s name, now you want to know where they work?), here are some examples of what you could ask:

  • Where are you from?
  • What are you some of your favorite hobbies?
  • Where did you go to college?
  • What was that initial spark that lead you to this business?

Fairly simple, right? Just get to know this person. You’re making a new friend here. Everyone this person talked to while networking was asked “what do you do?” You be the person that got to know them. Why? Let’s go back to the example questions and why they could be important.

  • Where are you from? You may learn this person is from the same country / city / place as you. If so, you will be remembered.
  • What are some of your favorite hobbies? This person may like doing something you like to do. If he/she likes playing basketball on the weekends, this could be something you’d want to do with this person in the future, which will further the relationship.
  • Where did you go to college? If this person went to the same school as you, it’s instant camaraderie.
  • What was that initial spark that got you into this business? Now the person doesn’t have the pressure to try to impress you with what they do, but they get to remember why they wanted to do it. This could be a better question to ask than “what do you do?” because you’re tapping into something bigger than their job… their dreams, goals, and aspirations.

You could go further with it because the conversation will flow naturally. Their job description will come up — but not before you get to know them a little bit first.

In business, what they do is important, but do you need to know right away? BECAUSE as I said before, people know other people. You closely befriend one person and you will have potential access to all of their contacts. Your job is to be a human being — and you have to be sincere, because if you’re not, you will reek of phoniness. It will work against you. If have to come from a place of sincerity, love, and kindness. That will radiate more than putting on a mask of caring. People know that mask. They see it every time someone asks “what do you do?” with a smile on their face.

You’re not thinking about business. You’re thinking about making new friends. It makes it more fun.

The business will come… you’ll find out what they do, dont worry.

Find The Best Way to Stay in Touch FOR THEM

Believe it or not, not everyone stays in touch the same way. With the advent of Social Media, you may find some people spend their time more in some places than others. Your new friend / contact will more than likely give you a business card with contact info on it, but these are slowly going the way of the dinosaur now that we hold mini computers in our pockets.

Email will be the most likely avenue of contact, but…

Your new friend / contact may utilize Facebook for business. Be ready to add them as a friend right in front of them for instant connection.

Your new friend / contact may be very active on Twitter. Do you have a Twitter account? You better.

Your new friend / contact is actively job seeking on Linkedin — is your account up to date? You will be messaging this person through here. Keep your account updated so they remember things about you for the future.

And of course, phone numbers for calling and texting is always a plus. This person really trusts you if you have their phone number. Some people don’t give their phone number to everyone, especially people of higher rank.

Just ask, “what’s the best way we can stay connected” and they’ll tell you.

And here’s the one I’ve been working on recently.

Be More Present

I know. You’re busy. So so busy. You can’t make it to your friend’s movie screening. You need to miss your other friend’s birthday party. Whatever you’re doing is way more important. I get it. Or maybe, just maybe… you just don’t want to go.

But if you can, if it’s possible — be there. It took me a long time to figure out the importance of this, and I’m sure many people out there are excellent at this already, so if you are, you’re doing it right. You can skip this one.

Others though, may find this one tough. Maybe you’re introverted. Maybe you feel uncomfortable in social situations. Find a way to be there, even for a little while. People appreciate it. It shows you care.

Now like me a lot of times, you may still care, but not go — so you need to figure out why you don’t make the effort. Are you afraid of something? Are you creating stories that don’t exist, like, “nobody’s going to care” or “what’s the use?” Remember, you’re reuniting with friends and making new friends. That’s it. Just say hi to people. Maybe you won’t make any new contacts, but like anything it’s practice. The more you go and meet people, the more you’ll be comfortable because you’re used to it.

I’m working on this one myself, so this advice is not just for you; it’s a reminder.

The Big Take Away

When we’re in school, we make friends with the people we’re forced to learn with. When we’re adults, we make friends with some/all of the people we work with.

On our own? Just continue to make friends with all kinds of people. They don’t need to be in the same industry as you. Know the people as a close friend instead of someone that can benefit you, and the business will be easier.

You will stand out.

You will be remembered.