Do these four things and watch your professional network flourish
Last week I facilitated a conference break-out session on networking with a group of nutrition educators and health professionals. The conference was billed as “celebrating food, health and collaboration” so I titled my presentation “Nourish Your Network”. It was a fantastic audience. They were eager to learn how to make the most of their professional connections so that they could better serve their respective communities.
As we discussed various tips and strategies, a brave soul raised her hand and asked the Elephant in the Room Question: “Jennifer, I love all these ideas. But, how will I find the time?”
I was ready for this question.
“What line of work are you in?” I asked. She was in charge of creating initiatives to help people create healthier, more active lifestyles.
“When people say to you, ‘I don’t have time to exercise’, what do you say to them?”
She processed this a moment, then the realization dawned on her face. “I tell them to find a way to build it into their daily lives.”
She “got it”, so I tossed her a bone for being brave enough to speak up. “Now, the good news is, with networking, it’s not as vital as daily exercise. I would say that if you wanted to build it into your weekly routine that would suffice.”
It’s a valid concern. It is hard to find the time, even when we know the benefits of creating strong professional connections. Yet it’s really not as time-consuming as you might think. Here are four things you can do to help nourish your network with just a small amount of weekly effort. Do one of these four things each week, and you’ll be creating consistent touch points with your professional network throughout the year.
- Make list of 12 of your current contacts that you’d like to get to know better. Schedule a monthly reminder on your calendar to reach out to one person per month, via phone or in person. Voila! That’s one week each month that’s done.
- When you read an interesting e-newsletter or online article, before closing out the document, ask yourself—“who do I know who would be interested in this information?” Forward the newsletter/article to that person with a simple introductory note: “I saw this and thought you would appreciate it because . . . .” Do this 12 times a year (only 12!) and you’ve just taken care of a second week of the month.
- Always eating lunch at your desk? (Or worse, skipping lunch altogether?) Make an appointment with yourself once a week for an “out to lunch” meeting. Put it on your calendar so people can’t schedule that time for a meeting. You deserve to get away from your desk to get some fresh air at least once a week. Once a month, make it a point to have one of your “out to lunch” meetings include a colleague that you don’t see very often. If you consistently do this every month, that’s the third week of “networking nourishment” you’ve provided for the month.
- Are you involved with a group that meets monthly? When you attend the monthly meeting, make it a point to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. Strike up a conversation with, “what drew you to this organization?” or “what is it about this industry that you find interesting?” Attend the meeting each month and you’ll have made 12 new connections and have rounded out week four of your plan.
By doing these just one of these four things on a weekly basis, you will have reached out 52 times in the course of a year. Fifty-two times! It adds up, doesn’t it?
What suggestions do you have for nourishing your network of professional connections? Put your answers in the comment section below.