Do you sometimes wish for an 8th day of the week? You know, a day reserved to take care of all of the stuff you were unable to get to during the course of a typical 7-day week (let alone a 5-day “work” week!). I sure do! And, then it hits me that if we were, in fact, given that 8th day of the week, our current workload would simply expand to fill in the extra space!
And so it goes with networking. Many of us think to ourselves, “I would get out there and network if I just had the time.” Certainly that used to be my perspective. Not anymore.
My recommendation: Make the time! Just as you might schedule regular workouts or doctor appointments or time to pick up your kids from piano lessons, so too must you carve out regular, dedicated time in your busy schedule to connect with others in a networking capacity.
This is one of those habits that I often work on with my clients as their Networking Coach. We start with a basic regimen and then build from there as their “networking muscles” gain strength:
- Set a goal. One easy way to get started with regular networking is to begin with just one meeting each week. You could even count networking events or group luncheons as your one meeting – or, you could be slightly stricter with yourself and require at least one 1:1 interaction. Remember, re-connecting with people you already know counts in the mix! Not all of your interactions should be with brand new contacts. As soon as you become proficient at one weekly networking interaction, bump up your goal to a reasonable level to ensure you are an active member of your community.
- Schedule it. Literally set aside a few options in your calendar each week for your networking meeting(s). If you are a morning person, add a calendar block that simply says “Networking” from about 7:30-9am (or whatever timeframe works for your lifestyle). If you prefer lunch time or afternoons, the same principle applies. Once you know who will be in that slot, change the description to that individual’s name.
- Make a list. Start thinking about who you want to connect or reconnect with. Write down their names. As I have recommended from the very beginnings of Coffee Lunch Coffee, preparing for networking by making these critical lists is essential. It doesn’t have to be a daunting task: Start, perhaps, with 3-5 names of people you want to interact with and go from there. Going back to step one, you can take it one month at a time… that would be just four names each month.
- Be open when others seek to connect with you. The full burden of connecting with others is not yours alone. We should all be reaching out to others regularly. As such, when you receive a request from a new or previously established contact, be open to taking the meeting. Even if you have to schedule it out a few weeks or months, be ready to seize opportunities to get together with others.
- Hold yourself accountable. Commit to becoming a “master networker” and hold yourself to it. You may even enlist a friend or a coach to check in with you from time to time to see how things are going. If you have an off week or month, start fresh tomorrow. The good news is that others are just waiting for you to take the initiative to connect with them – when the time finally arrives, they will be delighted to hear from you!
Even with your busy schedule, begin to build a networking regimen that you can stick to and that will prepare you for greater happiness and success in work and in life!