By Priyanka Jaisinghani Staff Writer
Too often, most of our business cards end up right where we put them: in our wallet or pocket. Many of us have had great, stimulating conversations with professionals at a conference, at a networking dinner or even at the subway station. You have all heard that networking is key and vital to your success. Getting a business card is only the first step, but connecting and keeping up with the person on that card is another ball game. Here are some suggestions for how to play it well:
Write a note: A problem that arises (and this happens to me as well) is, when you come back from a major event such as a conference, you have dozens of business cards and it is easy to forget what you discussed with each professional. A good habit to get into is writing notes on the back of the business card regarding what topics you touched upon with the person who gave you the card. The notes can be something brief to jog your memory when you want to connect with that individual.
Prioritize: Prioritize all the business cards you have received in different piles. At the end of the day, although all networking connections are important, some of them are more relevant to you in the moment. For some, creating a rating system with numbers or colors to help prioritize great business contacts, potential employers and so-so business contacts can help immensely. Find out what works for you so you can network more effectively.
First connection: You have already laid the groundwork by getting their business card; now you have to keep in touch. The first time you send an email, make sure to include your name, college, where you met and what you talked about. If you had promised something to a professional, don’t forget to follow up promptly. To take it one step further, you can attach an article related to what you were talking about and make sure you end your email with an “It was nice to meet you.” Don’t make your emails too lengthy, because at the end of the day, your contact probably gets a lot of emails. Keep it clean, concise and to the point.
Business card application: To help you prioritize your business cards, you can use business card applications. For example, LinkedIn not only allows you to connect with professionals, but also it has an iPhone application called “cardmunch” that turns business cards into contacts. All you have to do is take a picture of a business card with the application, and the card will be automatically converted into a contact. This is most useful for those of you who go to many events and get many business cards.
Keeping in touch: Try to contact the people in your networks at least three times a year. This can be during the holiday season, when their company has come in with a new product or service, or if you ever have a question for them, all depending on the contact. You can’t just keep in touch with the people in your network when you need something from them — you have to build a connection.