If there is one networking virtue I wish I knew earlier in my career it’d be consistency. Tell me if this story sounds familiar:
I go to the Crunchtech Explosion Conference. I meet the contact of my dreams and we end up having an awesome conversation. After exchanging information I send a thoughtful follow-up email. I get a response. I’m so in! Time passes and I thrust myself back into my normal routine.
Months later I realize that the company I’d like to do a partnership with is extremely close to the dream contact I met that day. I want to email him for an introduction request, but it just feels weird. We haven’t talked for four months. I wonder if they even remember me. Either way our relationship isn’t strong enough for an intro request now. Damn. I wish I would have stayed in touch.
Over the course of a year and a half in the tech scene, I’ve come to realize that the biggest networking fail is consistency. The anecdote described above has happened to me multiple times. I’ve met someone awesome and relied on chance encounters instead of intentionally cultivating that relationship over time. The chance encounter never happens and what could have been the start of an awesome relationship is relegated to a fleeting interaction.
Relationship building requires intentional, diligent effort over time. As a young person, I’ve found the most successful formula to be consistently adding value to someone else over time. The time and consistency aspect is where most people falter. Everyone sends the follow up email, but few ping them a relevant article or orginial idea month after month after month. It stands out.
What’s the best way to avoid relationship atrophy? One way is to keep a google spreadsheet to monitor key contacts in your network. Columns can include the contact’s name, the date of your last interaction (offline/online), what that interaction was, and the last time you saw this in person . It’s a great way to make sure that no one slips by the wayside and falls completely out of touch. Another great tool that automates this process is Contactually.
As your network grows this can become time-consuming. But so do most things worth doing. I think giving yourself permission to dedicate time to this is worthwhile. It has been in my own life.