In my previous post I tried to convey how important it is to show up for networking, whether over the phone, in person, or via the ‘Net.

And by “show up” I mean participate.

The challenge is that many technical people have no clue how to do this.  We aren’t natural “people” people.  If left to our own devices, we’d much rather be left to our own devices.

This is why I recommend having a system or a series of systems to help you expand your networking.

For me, the best networking systems have three aspects:

  1. A limit.
  2. A schedule.
  3. A reward.

Let’s break this down a bit.

The Limit:  This is basically how you will know when you are done with this particular activity.  It will vary with the activity and also with your level of networking experience.  It should always be something that you think you will be able to accomplish easily and yet will move you in the direction you ultimately want to go.  For example, you might have the goal of sending out one “just checking in” email message every day.

The Schedule:  Obviously some activities, such as attending a networking lunch at your local Chamber, will have their own built-in schedule.  For others, such as staying in contact with your current network, consistency is always better than intensity.  Put another way, it’s better to spend ten minutes every day than to try to cram in a full two hours, one day a week.  What we are trying to do is establish the habit of networking.  To that end, the best thing you can do is pick a specific time every day during which you will pursue this particular activity.

The Reward:  I believe quite strongly in the power of rewarding myself for my networking efforts.  And by rewards, I don’t necessarily mean anything lavish or expensive.  For example, my goal each day is to make three telephone calls to people I know and like.  When I’ve completed my task, I get to ready my daily comics and do a sudoku puzzle.  Nothing particularly exciting, but it does get me to make those calls each day.

Set up a system like this for each and every networking activity you want to pursue (though you shouldn’t start nire than one or two at a time).  As you follow your system, you will find that the goal is easier and easier to achieve.  As that happens, step it up a notch.  Try new activities.

So, to what activity are you going to apply a system?