10 Tips for Effective Networking

By Andrew Surmani, Business Executive, Professor, and JEN Past-President

One of the best parts of being a JEN member is the amazing network of friends and colleagues. So how do you effectively nurture your network? What are the DOs and DON’Ts for the proper way to network? Here are my 10 tips for becoming a better networker.

1. Help others, solve problems, and volunteer. Many people mistakenly think it is more important for others to help and solve problems for them, but that is a strategy that will fail in the long run. Networking is all about helping each other out. If you are the person who wants things for yourself, others will run and hide when you approach them. “You need a good sax player? Sure, I can recommend Frank.” I have a business owner friend named Steve and whatever I need, he will always respond with “I know a guy…” But Steve is also trying to build his own business so I can’t just take all his suggestions without giving something in return. I try to send as many new clients and new business to him as I can. Also, you don’t have to always be paid for your services. Sometimes, the best volunteer work turns into a future gig. Be a giver and connector.

2. Listen with your full attention. You have one mouth and two ears. This means that you need to listen twice as hard as you speak. If you listen carefully to what others are saying, before responding or trying to help them solve their problems, you’ll then truly understand what their needs are and be able to contribute effectively.

3. Start off by offering a compliment instead of asking for a favor. People love talking about themselves more than anything. Understand other people’s needs first before telling them about yours. Show interest in them and compliment them the very first time you talk to them. You will instantly get them to open up and not feel like your only interest is in getting something from them.

4. Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. If someone gives you a referral or recommendation, it usually means that they are trying to solve a problem for another friend or colleague. If you drop the ball and don’t follow up quickly with that person, their friend will think that they dropped the ball and you will make them look bad.

5. Say thank you and keep in touch. I have talked to many philanthropic donor friends and the thing that drives them the craziest is the lack of follow through and a sincere thank you. Ironically, that is the easiest thing to do! You just have to do it. I know of organizations that have left thousands of dollars on the table because they failed to follow up with a donor, say thank you, keep in touch, reach out in the donor’s time of need, etc. Don’t be that person. Follow through and say thank you frequently!

6. Become a powerful resource. People are going to want to network with you if you can also be a great resource for them in return. For example, they may call you every time they need a particular musician for a gig. In the process, these people will also become powerful resources for you, so be sure to define exactly what your networking needs are.

7. It’s not about knowing a lot of people, just the right ones (quality vs. quantity). The goal is not to have the highest number of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or Outlook contacts. The goal is to have the most important ones. The important ones are those that matter to you most in terms of friendship and business connections.

8. Broaden your network outside of your industry. You absolutely never know where your next gig is going to come from. Everybody has friends and someone outside of your industry might even have a connection to someone in your industry that you have been unable to connect with. Make friends everywhere and treat EVERYONE with respect. It’s a small world and if you are mean to someone, the word will get out about you. As we say in LA, the waiter that is serving your meal might be the next Hollywood star.

9. Nurture your existing network. Don’t ever take your friends and business connections for granted. You need to stay in touch regularly with everyone, wish them a happy birthday, ask them about their kids, send them a get-well card, and be there when they need you.

10. Be genuine and sincere. It is very easy to know when someone is full of it. And, as stated before, word gets around quickly due to the speed of the internet and social media. If you are a REAL person and genuinely care about others, you will never be lacking in friends and business contacts.

Now get out there and start networking!