Ask A Progeek: Keeping Up Networking

Well, been awhile since our latest talk.  Sorry this is a tad late, I had a crazy week!

So what’s the question from the Aspiring Progeeks today?

While I know the value of maintaining a network, how do I “keep in touch” if there’s nothing specific to say?  A random dropping of “Hi, how’s it going?” seems socially awkward, and yet too much time can lapse if I only contact the person when there is news or a relevant question.

This is actually something I struggle with myself.  I’m a connections type of guy, and rather social, yet I’m also not sure how to be uninvasive yet also keep up contacts.  Here’s what I found works – and yes, this is pretty much pure progeek.

First, you’re probably already keeping in touch with people anyway via social media, in-person, etc.  You’re doing a lot of networking already with your regular contacts and may not realize it.  If you’re not maintaining and expanding your actual social sphere, then you’ve frankly got larger problems.

Secondly, good networking these days usually requires some kind of regularly updated social presense in twitter, a web page, a blog, etc.  Take advantage of keeping a presence people want to and can follow available.  This takes the pressure off you by knowing that, if people truly need to contact you (and you forgot them) they can find you and follow you – and it already is “socially appropriate”

If you’ve got these going, you’re already solid.  Now where it gets tougher . . .

Third, you have to decide how you’ll classify your contacts to figure out the best way to keep in touch with them.  Do you know a lot of recruiters?  Do you have a lot of fannish contacts that are kinda-friends/kinda-pro?  Sort contacts in a way that works for you – and figure which kind of contact is appropriate.

Fourth, put together the right tools and schedules to keep in touch with people in a way that works, benefits you, and benefits them.  Here’s what I do:

  • Anyone I’m actively needing to engage goes into my task management program (Wunderlist)
  • I have active conversations in a folder I review once week to make sure they’re still going on.  Conversations that are questionable go in a folder that’s reviewed and purged once a month.
  • I keep an alert list of people I’m following regularly and set times to check in on them monthly, bimonthly, and so forth.  I keep this in Salesforce because I use it’s useful for many other things (you may just need a simpler system).  These are for people who I should talk to regularly, following up on projects and the like.
  • I set up a system to regularly contact people in LinkedIn list – though I’m currently revising that plan (which I intend to share).  This is more my “hi, how’s it going” pile.

Fifth, you’ll notice the tools I mentioned – find the right ones for you.  I like Wunderlist, a low-level Salesforce, and LinkedIn.  You’ll find something that fits you.

Sixth, do NOT forget “non-regular networking” off the schedule.  When I hear of news at a certain company and I recall people are there, I look them up and ask how it’s going.  When I find something of interest to certain people I ping them.  I get into the habit of networking – and this is when it is appropriate to contact people (in fact if someone’s company is laying people off you bloody well better be reaching out)

(In fact, if you do this right, it’ll make regular networking easier and may even eliminate or diminish some of your usual schedules.  This may be replacing my LinkedIn schedule to some extent).

Seventh, and finally, find a way to get feeds about people – from Tweetdeck to Twitter to RSS feeds or whatever.  Find a way to feed your social media together so you can get a quick view at a glance what other people are doing and respond – which also removes the social issues.

The great thing for us geeks is we’re technical, organized (in some ways), and can think creatively, systematically, or both.  Leverage this and you’ll be Networking like a pro.

Oh, and always re-evaluate your strategies.  It lets you make sure they work for you – which is what it’s all about.

– Steven Savage
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach for professional and potentially professional geeks, fans, and otaku. He can be reached at