Likely the same question that comes up when trying to find time to exercise, eat right, pursue a hobby, or take a course. Surely you’ve made the ‘I’m too busy’ justification statement at one time or another. We all have our reasons for selecting the priorities of our lives, but unfortunately ‘networking’ is seldom one that people embrace, as it is usually reserved for those moments when you are ‘in transition’ (aka, unemployed)… such a shame.
There is no question that life gets in the way, however the old adages of ‘fixing the roof while the sun is shining’ and ‘paying it forward’ are what this is really about. It has been said, ‘you get what you give’ in life… actively building your network, supporting others in their careers, joining industry groups, and proactively putting your hand out to assist others, will pay dividends in the long run. Even if you never experience that deflating feeling of being ‘downsized’, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the support, motivation and education your network provides.
Networking is typically seen as an effort of those in transition…people asking you to meet because you’re employed (and hopefully hiring), and they are not. However, what if you simply reached out to people while you were employed, or better yet, proactively contacted people you heard were in transition? Ask yourself, how you would feel about receiving a note requesting how to best help you while in transition ?…that would be a powerful gesture, right?
Of course, networking isn’t just about people in transition, it’s about being curious, learning from others, or simply meeting people who may be talented contributors to your own business or career some day.
You may have paid and/or set aside time to listen to keynote speakers…you do it to broaden your perspective and learn from experienced leaders. While engaging and relevant, they aren’t necessarily living and dealing with similar issues as you. For whatever reason, we still don’t make the equivalent time to network with people closer to our own lives and business. Networking doesn’t cost a thing aside from a little bit of your time…it’s free, and a huge opportunity for personal development!
Over the years, I’ve initiated or accepted meetings with a number of interesting people for coffee, breakfast, lunch or dinner…often while we were both gainfully employed. It may be time invested with former colleagues, industry peers, former customers, referrals, people of interest, and of course, those in transition. After every meeting, there’s a feeling of energy and a positive vibe from providing support to someone else, or simply sharing ideas and thoughts. At the same time, in hearing their story, you gain valuable insights along the way. Of the ‘A’ list networkers I know, most have at least one networking meeting a week…there are some weeks when I have 3 or 4. While it feels daunting at times, there’s a good feeling and great insights that typically come from the time invested.
So ‘what’s in it for me’ you ask?…well, you get to meet a lot of smart, interesting and experienced people who will recall that you were around during ‘good times’ if/when things turn dark…how can that not be a valuable use of your time?
For those of you that networked during your last transition, and then tucked it away after you found your next gig, now’s the time to pay it back…I assure you, your next transition (and role) will be that much easier and fulfilling if you do. Once you learn a new language, you need to practice it, or ultimately, it will be lost. Networking requires personal discipline.
If time is tight (it always is), at minimum, networking could be someone visiting you for 20 minutes at your office, or chatting during a 30 minute phone call on your drive to/from work. Make the time…you won’t regret it!
Networking while often ‘unsung’, is one of the most productive things you will do during your career. People will remember you for the time you selflessly gave to them, much more than whatever you achieved at the office.