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Posted on Sun, May 8, 2011 : 6 a.m.

Wasted networking: How unused business cards are like spoiled leftovers

By Greg Peters

moldy-food.jpg

Don't make this a part of your networking practice

Photo by Flickr user Ivy Dawned

OK, we've all experienced this, so don't even bother trying to deny it. You know how sometimes you make dinner and the recipe makes way more than you can eat in one sitting, so you put it in a container and stick it in the refrigerator. You can heat it up for lunch tomorrow. Tomorrow comes and goes and you think, "not today." After all you had just eaten it the night before. Maybe the next day.

This continues, day after day. Each day you check it. You aren't really interested in eating it anymore, but it hasn't gone bad, so you hesitate to throw it out — after all, you might get snowed in or something and then where would you be?

In the end, it eventually goes bad and you finally throw it away. For all the checking and guilt and stress it caused you, you would have been better off not saving it in the first place.

This happens at networking events all the time.

OK, I can hear you scratching your heads out there. Bear with me.

You go to a networking event. You collect some cards. They aren't great connections, but they aren't terrible either. You put the cards on your desk so you can contact them the next day. Tomorrow comes and goes and you find you are really a little too busy to call these folks. Maybe the next day.

This continues, day after day. Each day you notice those cards sitting there, waiting for your attention. You realize that you really aren't interested in following up with these folks, but you hate to throw out the cards; after all, one of them might be a good potential referral source.

In the end, you end up throwing out the cards because it's been way too long, and they wouldn't have a chance of remembering you. For all the guilt and stress it caused you, you would have been better off not taking the cards in the first place.

What it comes down to in both cases is a certain amount of self-honesty. Whether it is food or that guy you met in the buffet line, you have to be honest enough with yourself to know that if the chemistry isn't there, then you aren't ever going to have enough desire to revisit that experience again.

So, unless you really hit it off, don't bother asking for their card. You'll save yourself a lot of stress and guilt in the long run.

Greg Peters, founder of The Reluctant Networker LLC, writes, speaks and coaches about good networking practice. For more tips that can help your connections count, go to www.thereluctantnetworker.com.