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Managing a growing network

When complaints about cold and rainy weather have turned into complaints about sweltering heat, you know that Minnesota's summer is in full swing. The Twin Cities manage to pack an entire year's worth of events and activities into the three month window of the only seemingly perfect weather that we receive every year. As I try to savor every minute of this gorgeous summer, I find that the days and weeks are flying by in warp speed. With the 4th of July festivities behind us, I know that summer will be over before I know it. After taking time to reflect on my summer and internship experiences to date, I noticed that as my list of personal and professional contacts continues to grow, I am struggling to manage this ever expanding social network.
Without a doubt, the most valuable takeaway from my first year at the Carlson School of Management was gaining an understanding of the power of networking. From the first day of MBA orientation on, the importance of networking was pounded into my head. Though it was hard to miss this message with the barrage of school sponsored networking events, email messages, Graduate Business Career Center prompts, and professional advice reminding us to always be networking, actually putting this advice into practice was easier said than done. Carlson did a great job of providing me with tools, coaching, guidance, and opportunities to improve my networking skills and I have taken tremendous strides in developing my professional network. This network is constantly growing and includes my classmates, co-workers, Carlson faculty and staff, and wide assortment of business professionals I have met over the last few years. However, I am finding that my personal and professional networks are in direct competition for my attention and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to balance them.
Striking a balance a between obligations and commitments I have to my professional and personal networks ultimately comes down to choices. I have to be the one to choose who I keep in contact with and how I do it. It is very easy to keep in touch with those people who I see every day and even easier to lose contact with friends and colleagues who aren't immediately present in my life. I am recognizing that I am not smart enough to actively remember who I want to keep in contact with, how I want to contact them, and how often. Half of the summer has slipped by and I realize that there are at least 50 personal and professional contacts that I should have contacted, but have neglected to do so.

So what will I chose to do? Enlist help. The Graduate Business Career Center has made NetworksIgnite, a network management software, available to Carlson students. This software allows me to import contacts from Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media websites into a central location, organize their information, and set up reminders to contact them. The initial time investment will be significant, but I am choosing to invest time into organizing and managing my networks so that when slips away, the networks I have worked so hard to build have not.

Mike Robinson

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