I’ve been thinking a lot about networking, largely because I’m trying to get to know more folks in a new industry and in a new geography. Becoming familiar with a totally new universe of companies, trends, people, brands, and media sources is quite a task in and of itself.
Without belaboring the point, I agree with the old axiom “It’s not what you know, its who you know.” My friend Greg put it this way “Networking is what you do constantly when you don’t need it, so it’s there when you do.” Networking is clearly the best way to get a new job, source new business, learn more about pretty much anything, and I’m beginning to suspect it probably helps the love life.
Okay, so we all agree it’s important to do, but what’s difficult is actually doing it. It takes a LOT of energy and time. I’ve been to a few industry networking events recently, and he experience reminded me of middle school dances. A lot of awkward glances and smiles, some forced chitchat, and lots of cookies. You have to force yourself into conversations, meet people with whom you have potentially nothing in common, and hold a conversation for 5 minutes. Even if you suck, you’ll get a business card out of it, which you then have to connect to your linkedin/doostang/etc acct and email them to make nice.
If you do it right, it’s not disingenuine and helps you get to know more folks in the right places. But its certainly hard work.
So I’m not going to tell you networking events, linkedin.com, or just plain coldcalling is not necessary, because it is. However, I found a good way to keep contacts warm once you’ve made them. I use Google Reader occasionally to keep up on a few different periodicals I like, especially industry specific blogs and other random things I’m interested in.
Google Reader is great with keyboard shortcuts (much like most GOOG products) and my favorite one is “e” which quickly lets you email something interesting to someone you know. I use it 4-5 times a session and work a little harder to email people I haven’t talked to in a while. The critical part is to keep the forward relevant to the recipient and to add a note indicating as much to them.
It takes about 30 seconds and the effect is to keep yourself in the forebrain of people you’ve met and help you sell, forge partnerships, and get jobs. Hope it works for you as well as it’s worked for me.