Surf Etiquette for Networking

When speaking about networking, there are many things that we can take from our surfing experience and apply to our working life to improve our business relationships. 

Don’t drop in

We all know dropping in on your fellow surfer is a giant no-no.

Apply this to networking by understanding when to speak and when to listen. If you’ve struck up a conversation with someone at an event, learn to actively listen and make an effort not to interrupt them.

Active listening means focusing on what they’re saying, repeating your understanding of what they’ve just said back to them and avoiding thinking of what you’re going to say next before they’ve finished.

You never know what pearls of wisdom you might find if you give people your full attention. Rather than jumping in to add your thoughts, wait your turn. Not only will it help you to appear respectful and interested, it’ll make sure you take the most away from events and potential contacts.

Closest to the curl

The surfer that’s closest to the curl has the right of wave.

If you’re new to the scene or looking for an introduction, make sure you don’t tread on the toes of future contacts or force yourself on their attention by bypassing their personal assistants or ambushing them. There’s a difference between being keen to connect and being a stalker! If someone isn't responding to you, ask yourself what you could do differently. Is your approach right, have you taken into consideration what they’re getting out of the exchange and have you made it easy for them to say yes?

Busy people don’t need another item on their to do list, so be generous and genuine and think of them, as well as what you need from them.

No snaking

Don’t paddle around the surfer closest to the curl to claim the wave.

If the contact you’re trying to reach is busy, be mindful that there may well be someone else or numerous other people in the queue before you that have been patiently waiting their turn. Pushing in can make you appear self centred and impatient, not great if you’re looking for an introduction or a job. Instead you could send a follow up email with all the details sent previously and maybe ask if there’s something you could be doing better or someone else that might be able to help them. This shows initiative and a willingness to improve as well as respect for their time.

Everyone had to learn at some point

Be kind to learners and understand they may not know all the rules of engagement yet.

If you notice someone new at an event or whilst you’re networking, take the time to introduce yourself and make them feel welcome. Everyone has been new to something at some stage in their life and it can be a terrifying experience. Being friendly and approaching them is not only a nice thing to do, it could also set up a valuable partnership in the future or open a door you hadn’t previously considered.

Smile and be friendly

Everyone has witnessed that guy in the line up ruining the vibe for everyone else.

If you’re going through a tough time with your professional goals or business, try not to be super negative when networking. No-one wants to connect with people who constantly complain about the economy, their customers or business partners. Instead try to find relevant questions to ask the right people and find solutions to the problems you’re experiencing whilst networking. The odds are more than one of them will have experienced what you going through at some point in their career. 


If it’s a busy lineup, be respectful, but you’re going to have to get amongst it to catch a wave.

So many people put out a few feelers, a couple of emails, maybe a phone call and then when they don’t get the desired result they dust off their hands declaring they ‘tried’ and promptly give up. No.

Networking, finding new connections and making lasting valuable and enjoyable relationships takes commitment, effort and time. This is more of a long game.

The aim is to create professional relationships that are mutually beneficial. That might mean going out of your way to introduce two people you think would enjoy working together, sending your mentor an article you think they'd like to read or saying thanks to the person that helped you get that job by shouting them dinner. Be genuine and thoughtful and maybe down the track you’ll know the perfect person to help you get that next dream job.

Respect your elders

Those salty sea dogs have put in the hours.

It can be hard to believe that older people have much to teach young professionals as the world we live in continues to move at light-speed. But imagine this. Instead of jumping in head first based on your ‘intuition’, could you ask a few people a little longer in the tooth than you first? Sure intuition is important but often asking someone whose been in the game for a while can help you navigate mistakes and avoid wasting your time or doing anything irreversibly damaging to your career.

This could save you years. For example, when you’re looking for a career or a new job, asking a few people that have been in the role or industry a while the right questions could help you have a better idea of what the job is like, where it leads to and what you can expect. Infinitely better than spending years training and then gaining experience only to find out you don’t enjoy it or it won’t lead to where you want to go.

What other etiquette would you apply to your networking and why? 

Posted by: Sarah Price, on April 13, 2016
Categories: Articles