In the past couple of posts I’ve described my changing attitude towards networking, and even discovered that I’m not the horrible networker that I had once thought. But taking all that learning and translating it into action, that is always the most difficult part.
In one part of the Networking for Success class (shout out to Alana Muller, instructor extraordinaire), we had one activity where wrote down a few people who were already in our network (or in other words, our friends and colleagues). I wrote down people with whom I would be comfortable contacting, but that I didn’t necessarily stay in touch with all the time. I thought that this would be a great time to rekindle friendships and get back into touch with colleagues who have fallen out of touch. I plan on trying to connect with one of them a week.
One connection a week is pretty much the lowest bar I could set. And the first two days after that class, that was not my initial goal. Riding high on endorphins and caffeine, I was ready to go out and network the pants off of Kansas City. And then two more days went by and I hadn’t even started the reflection assignments due for the class. Two more days, and nothing but some guilt. So I realize that I could, and possibly should, be more ambitious, but I also want to actually follow through. This means setting reasonable, attainable goals.
I recently listened to a fascinating podcast about David Halpern and the Nudge Unit in the United Kingdom (I would link to the podcast, but I honestly can’t remember if I heard it on Freakonomics, the Ted Radio Hour, or one of the data science/machine learning podcasts I listen to), and then I read Amy Cuddy’s book, Presence, which talks about self-nudges. I really want to improve the communication with people in my life and the future people I haven’t met. It would be so easy to take all the enthusiasm I have right now and make very elaborate and detailed plans. So, so easy. (Actually, I’ve already done it.)
But I don’t want to create a plan that would be completely unmanageable. So instead, I’m going to work on small behavioral changes, and setting up systems that make it easy for me to follow through on my plans. In order to make it as easy as possible, I thought that I could create a database (decided to use Air Table because I like their mobile interface…yes, still using it!), and set up a system in Zapier so that it automatically connects with my calendar so that I can get updates and reminders. Automation is a wonderful thing, my friends. It does the heavy lifting of remembering dates, times, and information so that I can do the actual connecting.
A side note: I thought about using some of my coding chops to create my own program that would do this work instead of using these third-party sites, and I might still eventually, but this gets me up and running right now, using programs I am familiar with.
I’ve included an example of my networking database. All names and information is fictional, of course. So that I don’t forget, I named the database “What Can I Do For You” and used a coffee mug icon. The picture is of the web version, but there is also a phone app, so this information will be available to me on the go, as well.
The best part is that when going to a networking event or conference, I can connect the person to the event. It should be easy at an event to find a spare moment and use my phone to create a new “card” with someone’s name, then go back and put in all relevant information later. If there is a person with whom I want to connect, I can add them beforehand. Also, instead of having a separate app for cards, why not take pictures of business cards and upload it to a person’s file as well? I’m still in the tweaking phase with this, but once the structure is set up, adding and updating people is a snap.
It has been a few weeks since I’ve taken the class. I will admit to cheating a little with my networking goals- there were two weeks where instead of reaching out, I instead followed up with incoming networking requests to me. In the past, I may not have been quite as proactive with my response and attempts to connect, but now I recognize these requests as what they are: opportunities to help other people and grow.
What system do you use to organize your networking? If you have a system that works, I’d love to hear it!