We’ve all heard about the importance of networking. It helps you get ahead in your career. It helps you build your business. It helps make life easier in general. If you’re on-ramping after a leave of absence, maternity or otherwise, your network can keep you in the professional loop. Networks like ours here at Work It, Mom! keep me sane when I feel like no one else I know can relate to what I’m dealing with as a working mom.
When you work outside the home, networking with your business colleagues is nearly a no-brainer, even if you can’t make it to the big conferences. You sit near them at the office, you run into them in the cafeteria and local lunch spots, you trade ideas after meetings, you can subscribe to industry newsletters and publications and keep up with the trends that way.
But networking with old friends? When you’re juggling more-than-full-time work and parenthood, who has time for that?
That’s why I love Facebook. Love it with big, puffy hearts.
Between my commute and my full-time job and my freelancing and my kids and the never-ending laundry and housework, there are too many days when answering email ends up at the bottom of my to-do list. I’d love to socialize more, in real life, but the place where free time and affordable childcare intersect is increasingly hard to find and besides, most of my dearest friends live far away. Catching up on the phone? Good luck — chances are, I’m multitasking like a madwoman and the only time I’m really free to talk is when I’m driving (and that’s illegal at worst and just a bad idea at best, though of course I do it all the time anyway).
I prefer LinkedIn for making and maintaining professional contacts online; I’m not big on MySpace, because, honestly, the barrage of bad music on people’s profile pages is, um, not conducive to work (and there’s only so much “CRZY 4 U!!!! U R GR8″ crap I can be bothered with before it just makes me feel old and irritated). But Facebook? Facebook, I love.
If I have a little downtime during the day, I log on to and see who else has joined. (My company even has a little network there.) If I’m up late with a crying kiddo, I can fire up the computer and commiserate with other mom friends without having to email each one individually (a new chat function went live just last week). Plenty of family members — including my mother-in-law, one of my sisters-in-law, my godmother, and several cousins — are on it; one glance at my friends’ status updates and I can see what everyone has been up to.
The whole Six-Degrees-of-Separation theory really comes into play, too. Make a friend, check out his or her friends, make new friends — and rediscover old ones.
I recently reconnected with some people whom I haven’t seen or spoken with in close to two decades (gah… when you’re only 35, it seems so very wrong to be able to say you haven’t seen someone in that long!), and it’s absolutely fascinating to see what they’re doing now.
Your network can — and should — be made up of more than just the people you work with. Other professionals in your field should be included, of course, but many career coaches suggest you also think of people who might not be directly involved in your career — people in your every day life, old and new friends, the people you come in contact with outside of the office can also play a valuable role. Think about creating a “mentor panel,” with key people in and out of your office — your network can help you in more than just your professional life.
Not sure how to network? There are some great networking tips right here at Work It, Mom! — check them out!