You know the routine. You attend a networking event, professional conference, association meeting and collect a bucket load of 2 x 3 inch business cards from a collection of professionals, ranging from the gentleman who sat next to you at breakfast to an engaging mentor-worthy executive. Then the event ends and you transport the business cards from your suit pocket to your work bag and forget about them until you arrive to work the next morning.
Traditional networking wisdom would tell you to take the time in the next couple of days to log each contact’s information onto a spreadsheet and then follow up with an email (and log that too). Sound like a lot of work? Probably because it is and the fact that it is time consuming and really not top of mind (after all the conference is over and you have a stack of work to get to done) leads to a high likelihood of business card abandonment.
A better way to deal with a stack of business cards is to embrace social media to make your life easier. I constantly hear colleagues, friends, and family lamenting the main social sites calling them a time-zappers when really if used effectively they can be a time saver.
Below are a couple of tips for how to manage newly made contacts that will not consume your time for half a morning.
- Business card reader apps. If you have a smart phone or tablet then you can utilize this immediately. After collecting a business card you can take a photo of it and it will automatically be added to your phone contacts. Some of these apps go so far as finding the contact on LinkedIn and sending them a connection request. How is that for a time saver?
- In the moment notes. Immediatel
y after you collect someone’s card, take 30 seconds to jot down something you learned about them on the back of the card. This will help you remember what was meaningful about this particular person. Trust me after a long day of networking many of these contacts will blur together and you may remember that someone has a daughter at UCLA and loves mountain bike riding but deciphering if it was Cindy at GM or Greg from Target will be more challenging.
- Connections through LinkedIn. Instead of taking the time to enter contact information on a spreadsheet, invest that time by finding your contacts on LinkedIn and sending a connection request with a personal message that refers to something you learned about them (jotted down on the back of the business card- see point 2) when you met.
Remember, the point of sharing business cards isn’t to increase the number of contacts on your spreadsheets. Business card exchanges are solely for staying connected. Utilize social media and allow relationship building and productivity to co-exist.
What has worked for you?
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: Maggie Tomas works at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota as Associate Director and Career Coach in the Graduate Business Career Services office. Her background includes teaching and career counseling at the college level, namely at the University of St. Thomas, University of California Santa Barbara, and Brooks Institute, where she served as Director of Career and Student Services. She is a contributing writer to several blogs and publications including Opus Magnum, Women of HR and Job Dig.