I’ve had a few different jobs during my evolving career and I can’t think of one of them that didn’t require some type of outside-of-work networking. Each one was a bit different. When I was in venture capital, a lot of networking happened during lunches, after-work events or business dinners. As an entrepreneur, there are quite a few after hours and weekend conferences that are worth attending. Networking at my current gig is mostly about events, some of which happen during the day, but many of which require travel or staying late after work.
It took me a while to realize this but networking isn’t something extra, something optional — it’s a part of most every job I can think of. It’s a way to connect with people in your industry, build relationships with colleagues and people from your company with whom you might not work directly, get exposed to new ideas, and make important contacts. But as much as I knew how important networking was, it was the first thing I cut down on significantly after my daughter was born. There was no way I was missing bed time so that I could go to some after-work conference or dinner!
I did this for a few years. And then I came to my senses: If I am to keep working, I have to make networking a part of my work-life juggle. If not, I am hurting my career unnecessarily and not doing myself — or my family, including my daughter — any favors. As I slowly got back into it, I came up with a few ideas of how to better fit it into my life. Some are also captured in the comments to the blog post I just read over at The Juggle, in which a busy working mom asks for tips for how she can manage to network and still get to see her kids after work and her hour-long commute.
- Early morning or breakfast networking. I’m a huge fan of early morning and breakfast meetings and I’ve found that quite a few working parents are as well. Sure, an 8 am breakfast meeting means that I only get to see my daughter for a few minutes in the morning, but it also means that I get home at a regular time after work.
- Dedicated networking night. This isn’t always possible — events come up on other nights, for example — but as much as possible I’ve tried to pick one set night a week when I do some type of networking after work and get home late. I’ve found that fitting this into our family’s regular weekly routine works well for everyone. My daughter knows that it’s her night with papa and I know that I have this free night to plan for as I see fit.
- “First home then event” networking. What I often do if I have an event to attend after work is try to leave a little eary, get home, hang out with my daughter, eat dinner and then head to the event. Unless the event starts early, this works really well.
Do you have any strategies or tips for how to fit networking into your busy work-life juggle? How imprortant is networking to your job success?