Advancing

How Successful Professionals Make Time for Networking (Even When They Have No Time)

busy networking

You’ve had a long day. You snoozed through your alarm and missed the morning spin class. You sat in meeting after meeting, so you didn’t get any of your actual work done and to top it off, your boss needed one last TPS report at 7pm.

And….rinse and repeat.

With such a packed schedule, who the heck has the time to cultivate and nurture their network of friends, much less their colleagues and acquaintances?

My answer for you? You do. And here’s how.

  1. Remind Yourself Why Keeping in Touch is So Important

The reasons are endless and range from the altruistic to the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) mentality. Whichever way you slice it, keeping in touch is good for your career, whether you’re looking for a job or not. I don’t mean keeping in touch with everyone all of the time at a frenetic pace or anything, but get a sense for which relationships hold value for you– old and new. Write your reasons down before continuing to read this.

I recently learned a new way of networking with new people I meet that has changed how I look at building and maintaining a solid network of people. It’s called the GAINS Interview and is a conversation starter where each person takes turns talking about his or her Goals, Accomplishments, Interests, Networks and Skills. Some crazy new ideas and opportunities have been born from this approach and the added bonus is that when you’re meeting people for the first time, you’ll know more quickly who you can help and can help you- and thus who to keep in touch with long term.

  1. Understand What’s Absolutely Necessary

Let’s address the “there’s never any time” conundrum. Yes, everyone has busy periods where keeping up with the ol’ network and building new connections isn’t a top priority, but if you’re constantly busy, frenetic and exhausted, it’s worth asking yourself what’s up. How many meetings or subcommittees do you belong to that you don’t need to be at? What tasks during the work day are similar so that you can do them at the same time, thus increasing productivity? What doesn’t actually have to be done or what can you delegate? Take stock of your upcoming week- what tasks you have on your plate and what meetings- and make a plan. Evaluate it mid-week and end of week. See what changes you can make. And voila! You’re not stuck working around the clock and can open up the space and time to have phone chat, in person coffee or email exchange with someone you’ve been meaning to catch up with.

  1. Practice

This may not be natural overnight, and that’s ok. The idea is to put a plan in motion and see how it goes and tweak accordingly. The idea is to set a goal– numerical or otherwise and try to stick to it. Maybe you have 5 people that have been long time colleagues and you want to meet up with one of them per month in person for the next 5 months. Maybe you want to allocate some time before work to send a couple of emails out twice a week. Know your schedule (if you’re not a morning person, do what works for you) and don’t overdo it if you’re just getting started. Sending out 20 emails could create a lot of extra work if 15 of those people respond in one week. Know what you can commit to before starting.

  1. Get Organized

Unless you’re a walking phone/address book, you need to get this stuff down in some sort of CRM system. Now, these aren’t actual customers but you can use some of the free or inexpensive CRM systems as ways to organize your network. HighriseHQ.com has a free version that works fine for managing contacts, reminding you to do a task and filing when your last interaction with the person took place and what you discussed. There are plenty of other options too, so do your research and pick what works for you!

  1. Evaluate

Implement this step over time. I’m not saying networking and keeping in touch is a score keeping kind of exercise (ie “Well, I did x for him and he hasn’t done anything for me…), but it is worth checking in on how you feel about the relationship. It IS a two way street. If you’re mentoring someone or helping someone through a rough patch career-wise, it could be different than normal day-to-day operations. Bottom line: if you’re feeling drained from the relationship and that it’s not fulfilling, then it might be time to let that one go.

And then that opens up more time for those relationships that matter. This is where the ‘seamless’ part of the title of this post comes into play. Once you have this kind of system up and running, it’s not work or drudgery or ‘the last thing to get done’ and becomes naturally more top of mind, easy and dare I say it? – Fun.

Have a comment? Leave it below or contact me!

Don’t forget to join my online class on October 22nd:

Personal Narrative: Tell a Powerful Story When You’re Changing Careers.

About the Author

Jill Ozovek is a certified career coach in New York City. Her practice focuses on helping Millennial and mid-career women find and develop careers that align with their passions. For more info on your own career change and Jill’s Career Change Kitchen course, click here.