Everything falls apart.

A few years ago, I watched a fascinating show called “Life After People“. The underlying concept asked what if, for whatever reason, suddenly every human on the planet vanished? What would happen to all our artifacts as time marched on without us to maintain them? The upshot was, given enough time, everything would eventually crumble, some faster than others.

What really caught me was no matter how solid something appeared, it still needs us to maintain it. If that’s true of structures built of brick and mortar, how much more true is it of a structure built from good will and strong relationships?

One of the most dangerous points for us in our role as a networker is when all the connections we’ve built start to pay off. Often these benefits may come from directions we didn’t expect — maybe even from people whom we haven’t seen in a while. There’s a real temptation to think we can just relax in our networking efforts — coast, if you will.

Don’t give in to the temptation.

Networking has a certain momentum. Once you get things started, it can survive the occasional week or two without you doing your normal networking activities. When you start getting up to a month or two, though, your tight network starts getting a little loose. Close connections start fading. People forget you as more immediate issues take their attention. Soon, you have to start the whole long process of rebuilding which can take almost as long as it took to build in the first place.

Clearly, coasting is a dangerous pastime when it comes to your networking practice. If you do have to do it though — perhaps you are temporarily overwhelmed in either your professional or personal life — what can you do to limit the damage?

  • Limit the coast. If you know you are going into one of these networking down times, set yourself a limit. whether it’s one week or two or even a month, set a hard limit and start scheduling more networking after that point. Most people find it difficult to break an appointment, so a scheduled meeting will interrupt your networking coast.
  • Network through your abundance. In this case, your abundance of knowledge through a blog or e-newsletter. While this isn’t true two-way networking, by regularly reaching out to members of your network through one of these mechanisms, you are at least keeping your name in front of them which helps prevent the forgetfulness problem.
  • Broadcast networking. Social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn can serve to keep their memories fresh, too. Take just five minutes to login, update your status and comment on at least one other persons and you’re less likely to have people wondering if you fell off the face of the earth. If possible post something other than “Hard at work”. Make it personal so they get to know the real you.
I’ve said it in the past, networking has to become a part of your lifestyle if you want to succeed in the long run. If you view it as just something you do, sooner or later you’ll be tempted to coast. Just like riding a bike, though, sooner or later you have to start pedaling again. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to get back up to speed.

Photo by Joses Tirtabudi