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How to Keep Track of Networking Contacts

By Christopher Schonberger

I know we’re beginning to sound like a broken-record, but every single person who’s found a great job will tell you the same thing: you have to start networking if you want to expand your career opportunities. Yes, it sounds sort of annoying. Yes, there are people who go too crazy with it and make the rest of us feel uncomfortable. But networking can really be as simple as asking a friend of a friend about her field of work. You probably “network” more than you think already.

But here’s the rub: you can’t just start networking willy-nilly and sit back while people walk up to you and offer you incredible jobs on the spot. Sometimes you will need to follow up with someone a couple months or even a year later. In order to keep track of all your new contacts, it’s worth making a personal Networking Contact Spreadsheet. It may sound incredibly anal, but it will take no time at all and could pay huge dividends. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Set up a spreadsheet. This will serve as HQ for all of any networking you do. Along the top, create the obvious columns—name, company, contact information. However, the way you can really stand out, particularly when networking with someone you’ve only met once or twice, is by remembering specifics about your meeting. Write down what they do, what you talked about, where you met them, who introduced you or whom you know in common, etc. Then, when you reach out, it will feel much more sincere because you can mentions specifics about your encounter.
  2. Fill it out as you go. Whenever you meet someone, either randomly or at a networking event, try to sit down with your spreadsheet for a few minutes—take out any business cards or info you collected, and jot down any notes you can think of about the meeting. Trust me: you’ll manage to forget everything about that really interesting person you met, and you’ll probably lose the business cards and kick yourself for it.
  3. Keep track of correspondence. Create a final column in which you can track any subsequent correspondence you have with the person. Put things like, “Sent resume 5/19/08. Told to follow up 9/1.” This way, you won’t forget anything or annoy people with multiple or ill-timed messages.

Of course, there are many other ways to make this system more complex (e.g., color-coding by industry). But for a very simple way to make sure your good networking doesn’t go to waste, a simple spreadsheet is a great place to start. Remember that you should put any contact in there, not just high-profile people. After all, you usually don’t network directly to the CEO of a company, and you never know where others may be down the line. Also, make sure you follow up with people when they ask you for ideas or send you an e-mail. Boosting your career karma is never a bad idea.

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