A common excuse for avoiding networking is a lack of time, but in many cases, the actual barrier is a lack of planning. Networking opportunities are everywhere, but if we’re not prepared to take advantage of them, we miss out.
While life certainly feels busier than it did a decade ago, a little planning can have a big impact on your networking outcomes. Here’s how:
- Work networking into your regular schedule. Need to eat lunch? Invite a colleague so you can catch up. Stuck in traffic on the bus? Send a few messages to old connections to check in. Attending the quarterly Town Hall meeting? Sit next to someone you don’t know and learn about what they do at the company.
- Find out who’s attending. Got a conference coming up? Review the attendee list in advance and set up meetings with people you want to be certain to meet. Going to a large social gathering like a wedding or retirement party? Ask the organizer who might be interesting to connect with while you’re there.
- Meet them where they are. Can’t get on a key contact’s schedule? Attend their next speaking engagement (investing in them first can go a long way in getting your foot in the door). Maybe you’re trying to chat with an Executive who is a road warrior. Offer to meet them for coffee at the airport.
- Always be ready. Each week, prepare something interesting to share with people you run into during the course of daily life. Whether in the elevator, cafeteria, or PTA, chances are someone will ask “How are you?” or “What’s new?” Instead of the rote “busy” or “not much,” share something brand-building (e.g., “I just hit the two-year mark of being on my own as a designer” or “I recently published my first article.”)
- Put it on the calendar. If it’s not scheduled, it likely won’t happen. You probably already put key events on your calendar like the weekly staff meeting, your upcoming dentist appointment and your monthly golf outing. So, why not networking? Add 30 minutes each week to send emails, check LinkedIn or respond to people who reach out to network with you! Add two monthly lunch or coffee meetings to your schedule and then slot in people you’ve been meaning to connect with.
We all have the same 24 hours in the day. A little planning goes a long way in making that time much more productive!