I’ve advised one or two people on good networking habits now and I’m beginning to see some recurring themes. One of the biggest is “constructive avoidance”. It’s easy to recognize because I tend to do it, too. This is the process whereby we avoid what we know we should do by claiming that we first have to get something else done. The excuse inevitably seems completely reasonable, but the end result is that we just never get around to doing what we know we are supposed to do in the first place.

In order to help everyone (including myself). I am going to make a list of the excuses people use to avoid networking and summarily crush every one of them. If you can think of others, please send them my way. I’m doing this as a public service.

  • I would start networking, but I don’t have my tickler file set up.
  • Open Google Spreadsheets.  Create a new spreadsheet. At the top of the first column enter “Name”, the next column header is “Last contacted” and the next is “Next contact”. There. You have a tickler file. Just sort by the third column. Adapt as needed after you start using it. This should take approximately three and a half minutes.
  • I haven’t figured out exactly what information I want to keep in my tickler file.
  • Start with what I listed in the above response. Adapt as needed over time. You will never design the perfect system right out of the gate. You are going to have to build that airplane in mid-flight.
  • I haven’t entered all of my contacts into my tickler file.
  • Don’t. Just enter as you contact them.  It will fill up fast enough.
  • I haven’t figured out exactly which events I’m going to attend.
  • Bring up the events for your local Chamber of Commerce. Pick any three and attend. Your goal for these events is to see if they have any potential. You will never be able to pick the perfect events just by reading the descriptions.
  • I don’t have a 30-second commercial.
  • Yes, you do. Think of the last time Aunt Sally asked you what you do for a living. It may not be a great 30-second commercial, but no one cares, and you can (and should) adapt over time.
  • My 30-second commercial doesn’t sound natural.
  • Of course it doesn’t. It won’t sound natural until you’ve delivered it about twenty times to an actual human being and adapted it each time.
  • I’m not comfortable making small talk. I wouldn’t know what to say.
  • You shouldn’t be “saying” anything. You should be asking. Come up with a very short list of open-ended questions (nothing they can answer “yes” or “no”) and they will be more than happy to do most of the talking. Just make sure you know the answers to those questions for yourself.
  • I don’t like other people.
  • Pretend you do. Other people are the reason you are in business.
  • My business cards aren’t ready.
  • It doesn’t matter. Get some blank cards you can write your contact information on, if you really want. Remember: They don’t care about your business card. Even if you give it out, it’s vanishingly unlikely that anyone will contact you. The important thing is to get their card so you can contact them
  • I’m already on LinkedIn and Facebook. I don’t need to meet people face-to-face.
  • Wrong. Social media sites are great ways to maintain connections and to establish yourself as an expert in your field. They cannot take the place of actual human interaction. As social animals we learn so much about each other from non-verbal cues, that trying to establish mutually beneficial long-term relationships with someone without actual face time is kind of like trying to drive with your eyes closed. You can do it for a short while, but you have to go a lot slower or risk having a serious wreck.
  • I’m too busy to network.
  • This one takes care of itself. If you don’t network you will eventually be “not busy”. If you would like to avoid this situation then you will make time to network. Here’s what you can do: During each commercial break for “American Idol” (or whatever your guilty pleasure is), send out one email making contact with one of your networking connections. Congratulations, you are networking.

I’m sure there are numerous other excuses, but this should cover a fair amount. If I receive a significant number of additional excuses from readers, I will revisit this topic. So, please, send in your cherished avoidance technique that gets you off the hook with your networking.

But beware, unless it involves something life-or-death, I will crush it and throw it in the dust bin.

Photo credit: brainware3000