Avoiding the Lapse in Networking

Kaylie, Lisa, JoAnn, and I with friends,
Marcia and Gary Housel

As I’ve mentioned, we have been out in Pennsylvania for a short family vacation with my wife’s family. We’ve been having a lot of fun, but there’s been one minor challenge:

My networking has suffered.

Now, missing a week here or there isn’t a huge problem. Networking has a certain momentum to it which can carry you through short breaks for vacations or family emergencies. The true challenge is when you return back home, can you get right back to work making your connections? Before you respond, remember that returning from a break often means that you have a pile of stuff to go through that will seem urgent. You could easily spend the next week attending to it and your normal duties.

After two weeks without networking, you are going to feel a sense of overwhelm about starting back up. You’ll push it back a day, maybe two. Suddenly you’ll look up and realize that you haven’t done your networking for over a month. Look out feast and famine cycle, here we come!

Here are a few things you can do to help mitigate the problem.

  • Adjust your tickler file. If you set specific dates to call your contacts in your tickler file, make sure you don’t have anyone scheduled while you are going to be gone. If the absence is unplanned, take a few minutes as soon as you get back to “seed” your scheduled calls/emails from that time into the next two or three weeks.
  • Send an email or two. While you may not have time to do your full networking practice, assuming you do have email access, just send out an email or two each day. It will help you stay in touch at a minimal investment of time.
  • Practice. Especially when you are away from home, this is a perfect time to practice your face-to-face networking skills. Strike up a conversation with someone at the breakfast buffet. Find out about how the front desk manager got his position. How long has the shuttle driver been working this route?
  • Get access to your materials. If you are on the road, do you have access to your tickler file, your schedule, and your address book? Personally, I use Google Docs, Google Calendar and Gmail for these tools, respectively. All I need is an Internet-connected computer and I can make whatever connections I have time for.
  • Think ahead. While you are away, take a few moments to plan for your networking upon your return. Be aware of the time it will take you to catch up and plan for a specific scheduled time to accomplish some of your networking activities. Sometimes, just the act of planning will be enough to keep you on track.
When you head off on vacation, you probably already have a checklist of sorts to make sure you don’t forget to feed the cat or pack your snorkeling gear. Add one more thing to the list: Adjust networking practice to “on the road” mode. Taking a little time now to prepare for your absence will help you avoid the feast or famine cycles which come from an uneven practice.
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About Greg Peters

Greg Peters, president and founder of The Reluctant Networker, LLC, is a business networking specialist. He works with trade associations on both the local and national level to create a culture of better connections and greater opportunity. Find out more at www.TheReluctantNetworker.com or gpeters@thereluctantnetworker.com.

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