Today we have a special Guest Blogger. Marny Lifshen is communications consultant, and is also my co-author for the new book, "Some Assembly Required For Women", which is due out by the end of this year! This book will be a follow on to "Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships", but focusing on unique business and networking issues women face. Marny is an experienced business professional, and I know you will enjoy her guest blog!
Networking- The Healthy Habit!
By Marny Lifshen
I wish I was a morning person, up by dawn, plowing through emails, meeting clients and colleagues for coffee. I wish I was a night owl, staying up hours after the kids are in bed, catching up on work, finishing chores around the house.
Unfortunately, I’m neither. I crawl out of bed when my four-year old pokes me around 7:00 am, and I rarely stay awake much past Letterman’s monologue. So how do I get everything done in a 15 – 16 hour day, what with juggling a two-year-old, a four-year-old, a husband, my job, two cats, a dog and a horse? Not to mention the new book I’m co-authoring with Thom Singer. How do I find time for networking? And do I really have to?
The answer is yes, I really do have to. The trick is to first make it a priority; then to make a plan; and finally to make it a habit. I work as an independent marketing communications consultant out of a home office three days a week. That enables me to spend all day Tuesday and Thursday with my girls. While this is a blessing, it also means I have to cram all of my work for clients and for my business into three days, including networking (except for the occasional evening event when my husband can come home early).
Here’s how networking can work even with a limited schedule:
Choose the one organization that is the most relevant to your career or industry and be an active member. Most organizations only have one meeting per month, so commit to attend that. Take advantage of these events to meet new people and strengthen relationships with existing contacts.
Hold meetings – coffee or lunch work fine – two times per month with important contacts. Review your rolodex/database regularly to make sure you’re not overlooking people you haven’t seen in a while. You don’t have to have a specific agenda beyond building/maintaining your relationship.
Identify the 2-3 key events in your community or industry and commit to attend per year. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a black-tie awards gala or a two day software conference - figure out which events are critical for you to attend, and put them on your schedule.
Try combining multiple meetings into one. If there are three or four people with whom you have been meaning to meet, ask yourself if you could schedule one luncheon with them all. If they don’t already know each other, perhaps they should!
Proactively contact to at least 2 people in your network per week via email, phone calls or hand-written notes. You don’t have to be face-to-face to keep relationships intact.
Begin networking online – online communities can be a great source of information, advice and contacts and nearly every profession and industry have one or more online communities. And, this networking can be done outside of traditional business hours, which helps free up your daytime schedule.
When you make networking a priority and analyze your schedule to make your plan, you’ll see that some things have to go. I have always been very committed to serving community and charitable organizations as a volunteer or board member. But when I had children and made the decision to start my own consulting business and work part-time, I knew I wouldn’t have the time or flexibility to really be of value.
While making a commitment to networking may seem daunting, it really is quite manageable, especially once it becomes a habit. The key is to reach out to people you don’t already see or talk to on a regular basis; grabbing coffee with a co-worker or calling a client is important, but doesn’t really constitute networking.
Marny L. Lifshen