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Posted on Thu, Mar 3, 2011 : 6 a.m.

Building the networking muscle

By Greg Peters


Photo by Raj Taneja

I'm a volunteer instructor at an awesome martial arts school here in Ann Arbor, Keith Hafner's Karate. I'll often be put in charge of warming up the class. It's amusing, the chorus of moans and groans I hear when I give the dreaded command "push-up position!"

One of our senior instructors, Master Jason, puts it this way:

Despite the fact that they know it will make them stronger, why do people hate doing push-ups?
Because they aren't good at it.
Why aren't they good at doing push-ups?
Because they don't practice.
Why don't they practice doing push-ups?
Because they hate it.

Of course, the way to break the cycle is just to choose to start doing push-ups. Eventually, you will start getting better and as you start getting better, you will begin to enjoy it more, etc.

Now replace the words "doing push-ups" with "networking" above.

For reluctant networkers, the dilemma is the same. They have to break the cycle of hating networking. How are they going to do that? By starting.

Now, if we have a student just starting out, we would never suggest that they go home and rack off 50 push-ups at a time. Even if they could do it, they would end up hating push-ups even worse than they did before.

Instead we would recommend that they start with sets of two or three. Maybe they are "knee" push-ups or even ones against the wall. At any rate, make the process very easy to start with, and slowly build the muscles until they can eventually do 50 in one sitting.

Networking works the same way. I certainly don't recommend that anyone go out first thing and try to organize a networking gathering for all of her clients, complete with a black-tie dinner and live orchestra for dancing afterward.

Start small. How about sending out two or three email messages touching base with clients and colleagues? Maybe after a week or so, throw in a phone call or a hand-written note. Then bump it up to attending an event or two and following up with an invitation to coffee or lunch.

Just because you don't have the networking "muscle" right now, doesn't mean you can't develop it. Start light and easy. Make it a regular practice. Before you know it, people will think you've always loved networking. After all, you're so good at it!

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