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5 Tips on How to Approach Networking

Updated: 3 days ago

Group of people at a networking event

The film industry is all about relationships. I might even dare say most career opportunities are. People who you work well with are likely going to hire you again or pass your name to others. In order to develop these relationships, we have to do something a lot of people say they hate doing: networking.

Networking can be intimidating. The thought of having to "create relationships for personal gain" can feel icky. And if this is how you define networking, it 100% makes sense if you feel gross and uncomfortable. I'm here to tell you there is a different way to look at networking that can be exciting and maybe even fun.

Here are a few tips I've learned over the years and I hope it becomes useful for you as you go out and develop your own network.

Tip #1 - Just GO

One of the most difficult things to do is to get out of the house and GO. When going to an event, there is a slight risk in putting yourself in an awkward situation. Why would you submit yourself to such social pain? 😩 The answer is because you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. If you don't just get out there, you won't know what you've missed out on. There could be someone that is your collaborative soulmate in which you could be creative with, help produce your next big project, or be offered the opportunity of a lifetime. A wonderful and unexpected journey may lay just beyond your doorstep, but you can guarantee that you will not find it if you choose to stay hidden away in your apartment.

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. " – Wayne Gretzky

By the way, networking does NOT always have to be in a professional setting. Networking can mean going out to any activity in which you meet new people. This could mean attending a party, book club, volunteer work... all those count!

Tip #2 - Look for people you vibe with

This is ultimately how I approach networking and why I never feel gross about it. I am GENUINELY looking for friendships. I do not size up who I'm talking to and see if they are worth benefiting me at all. The truth is, you never know who will suddenly reach out to you for an opportunity. I say this because of personal experience. Many years ago, I was on set as a 1st AC and really vibed with the 2nd Assistant Director - we became good friends. A year later, she passed me an opportunity to be a Cinematographer. I never expected that and felt honored she thought of me. More than likely, opportunities will come from someone you've befriended, so focus on people's energy you enjoy. Be genuine and sincerely look for relationships that you want to develop and nurture.

When you approach a social situation, it's important to understand that you will not vibe with everyone. There will absolutely be people that you don't get along with and that's the reality of the world - you can't please everyone. If you begin a conversation with someone and you can tell that the vibe is off, you can leave the conversation. There are ways to do it without being rude. You can politely say, "I'm going to go mingle a bit more, it was nice meeting you" or excuse yourself to the bathroom or to get a drink. You're not burning a bridge if that bridge was not built to begin with. Furthermore, if you want to build a bridge somewhere, don't waste time building an unstable one. It may feel a bit weird to walk away, but it's better to get out of an unpleasant conversation and invest your energy where you're wanted.

Tip #3 - Get Curious

This is important. You need to be CURIOUS. Ask questions! We all desire to feel important and have some kind of value to the world. My theory is that's why Facebook and Instagram are so popular. Those social networks give you a numerical measurement that quantifies a persons perceived value. This confirms the idea that most people like feeling valued. If you are aware of this, you can gain the ability to make someone feel like they matter. Being able to give someone that feeling can be powerful.

So, where to start? You can start a conversation with the basics: what do you do for work? Where are you from? What got you into the career you've chosen? Any siblings? Do you have anything exciting coming up? How long have you been in LA? What were you doing before? Here's a good tip: Don't listen to answer, listen to ask more. What I mean by that is that there are people who like asking questions in order to answer it for themselves. This is the opposite of being inquisitive.

Listen to what people say, find pieces of information in their answers, and inquire for more. If someone said they used to work in the airline industry, ask how it was or what they did exactly. If you notice a tattoo, ask for the story behind it or if they have other tattoos. Be observant and pick up little things they mention so you can follow up and egg them on to give you more details.

Don't listen to answer, listen to ask more.

Being focused on asking questions does not mean you need to be mute about yourself. OF COURSE you should share stories and connect with people if you feel compelled to! That's the whole reason we're discussing this - we're trying to make meaningful connections. The point I am making is to just keep in mind that if you want someone to feel valued and heard, ask about them.

With all this in mind, I'd like to reiterate our tip #2 of vibing: don't force this if you're not feeling it. You should be genuinely curious. If you don't feel like you are being authentic, don't do it. Do what feels right for you to make meaningful connections with others.

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Tip #4 - Practice Remembering Names

"I'm so sorry! I'm SOOOO BAD at remembering names." Sound familiar? The truth is, EVERYONE IS BAD AT REMEMBER NAMES. Ok, maybe I should not generalize but I think I can safely say the majority people are not good at it. Remembering names takes practice - at least it does for me! So you can choose to use an excuse or put a little bit of extra effort.

It's easy to forget names, but you need to practice! Because, what is the point of meeting someone if you're not going to remember what their names were? And to go back to the point of making someone feel important ... remember a persons names is one way to make someone feel seen.

A friend told me their tactic to remember names was to ensure she used a persons name 3 times within the conversation. She would first say it when she met them, use it again mid-conversation, and try to use it once more at the end. I think this is a pretty good parameter to go by.

In a way, new names are like learning a new word in a new language. You won't remember a word the first time, but the more you work on recalling it, it will stick.

I feel weird saying names so many times aloud so I do it mostly quietly in my mind. Within the first few seconds of the conversation, I would immediately repeat the name in my head. I try to be observant of their facial features so I can associate their name with their face. Then in the middle of the conversation, I would repeat that name in my head... typically when they're speaking about something. Then, if it felt right, I'd say it out loud to them when we parted ways, "Nice meeting you Zach!"

This repetitive behavior will help you remember people's names. If you don't recall their name throughout the conversation and attempt to remember their name only at the very end of the conversation... I'm willing to bet that information is loooong gone, in through one ear and out the other. Challenge yourself to be better at remembering names. Challenge yourself to be the person who can make someone feel seen.

Tip #5 - Follow Up & Continue to Show Up

"Following Up" can be done through a number of ways. This can be done with a message via e-mail, social media befriending, social media follow, social media direct message... it really depends on what you think is appropriate for your relationship with this person. Do what's comfortable.

I personally try to avoid adding people immediately on social media. It's kind of like the name thing. It's easy to add people and forget about them shortly after, so I try to add people on social media a few days to a week later to avoid being forgotten. If the vibe was a true friendship, I might ask them to meet up for a coffee or a hike just to hang out and be friends. If they felt the vibe too, they'd probably also come and hang out. If they don't, it's okay - they probably were not your person. Back to tip #1... you miss all the chances you don't take!

Continue to show up, continue to be visible. Because of social media, I would say showing up can mean multiple things. it can mean posting on social media and showing up there or it could also mean showing up at more networking events.

People will start remembering who you are if they see you again. This goes back to the idea of recalling something multiple times. The more you show up, the more people will remember you.

Continue to show up because you are essentially planting seeds for both career and networking (or as I call it, friendship) opportunities. And the truth is, you will never know which seeds will come to fruition so you may as well plant more.

"Following up" means you are taking action in developing those friendships further. "Showing up" means you are taking advantage of opportunities to discover more friendships. You need to do both to work on expanding your network.

Bonus Tip

This might be extreme for some people, but once I finish a conversation with someone, I take notes immediately on my phone. I write down their name, where I met them, and any other unique details I could remember. I do it so I can recall who they are the next time I see them. This also helps me reconnect with them on social media a few days later. This isn't to say my memory skills are perfect!! I am sure I am guilty for having forgotten people I have met, but I try my very best not to. I think it's important to make others feel important if you have the ability to do so. I know when I remember details about someone, it makes them feel good. If other people feel good, it makes me feel good.

Remembering things about other people may not always be the most natural thing for some, but it certainly is achievable.

Make Meaningful Connections

Networking doesn't have to be gross. It actually can be quite fulfilling to find friendships that can last the rest of your lifetime. Good friends will always help you out and be your silent cheerleader. They will boost you up in your career when they can, without any expectations that you will return the favor. They will lookout for opportunities for you because they know what your dreams are. Life is about developing relationships with people and sharing experiences with each other. Find people you vibe with and make meaningful connections. If this connection just so happens to get you a job, what a bonus! :)

These tips are what has made me feel comfortable and excited about finding friendships (aka networking), but it's possible you have your own ways of creating meaningful connections. How do you approach networking? Do you have additional tips and tricks? Are there other topics you'd like to read about? Let us know by filling out our contact form.

FreeMe is created for crew members and strives to be a resource to help support the growth of filmmakers. Our crew timecard and job tracking app, FreeMe, is available on the App Store and Google Play.


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