How to Make Contacts and Take Action

Set a timetable to achieve your goals for making contacts; perhaps you can aim for one cold call, one email, one lunch, and two reconnecting calls a week. Create a file or "networking" notebook to record who you've called and what the outcome or response was. Stick to your schedule and, to stay on track, read over your responses from time to time. You'll be surprised and encouraged by how many contacts you are making.

It helps to set aside a special networking time, such as 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays, if your work schedule allows. Quiet Sunday evenings at home can be good times for networking, often the only way to make long-distant contacts. If you put yourself on a mental schedule, you're more likely to really make contacts. When attending meetings, set goals to meet a certain number of new people or leave with a certain number of business cards. Then do it!

Networking is a challenge. The biggest part of it is psychological -- getting and keeping motivated . . . and overcoming any fears you may have. Keep in mind that "It can't hurt to ask" . . . that most people enjoy being asked for help and are flattered to be asked for advice. They also know that in this uncertain job world, they need to network. Consider joining Toastmasters to improve your communication skills. Always push yourself. Approach new people at meetings and start a conversation, even if you're not in the mood. Taking the initiative really pays off. Whether you're a novice or an expert, you get only as much out of networking as you put into it.

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