Is that your first response when someone tells you that what you need is to start networking?
For me networking often feels like just one more of the many things I should be doing in order to get ahead. When do you find the time–after you have worked all day, picked up groceries on the way home, cooked your family dinner, did a little cleaning to keep the house from completely coming apart, and tucked the kids in bed?
Every once in a while I venture out to a local after work networking gig, maybe some speed networking social. I talk to a number of people, gather their cards, which I drop on my desk in a pile of other “should do’s”, do a few work related items, and go to bed. I still have a pile of cards from great people who I met at a Facebook training last summer (oops almost 9 months ago) that I have yet to do anything with.
I know I am not alone in this and I also know that women rank lower on networking than men–when it has to do with business networking. Doesn’t that seem odd to you, since women are stereotyped as being more social, deeper bonds, and caring relationships?
Networking is a vital part of career growth. So what do you and I do?
Start with your closer circle of friends and business acquaintances; not with people you do not know or have a connection. Because women enjoy community, networking with people you may never see again feels foreign and manufactured. However, building closer connections with people you already know will actually feed your soul, not just your career.
Make a commitment that you will regularly meet with people you do not normally see, but know. People who may have connections with other people you would like to know. You don’t have to have an agenda; just have lunch or a glass of wine after work. Make a list of 10 people you would enjoy seeing and make a point to start making dates to meet. Keep this list on your desktop where you can add to it whenever you think of a new person, or get a card from that interesting person you otherwise will lose in a pile of to-do.
When you meet with these people you can keep it social, but make sure you are telling them about what you are doing with your career. Ask about their ventures and offer suggestions or connections that will help them.
Lastly, don’t be shy about telling them you are looking to meet people who can help you with something specific you need. If they can help, they surely will.
You will be amazed at how many resources were waiting for you right in your own backyard! And you will be keeping in closer contact with people you enjoy.