By Stephanie Hanna • April 30, 2019•Writers in Residence
Last month, we discussed the importance of being a giver when networking. A common follow-up question is how to be a giver but also not overextend yourself. Here are some ways that you can continue to build relationships, add value, and be a giver when networking, but not stretch yourself too thin that you become overwhelmed or give up altogether.
Set Realistic Goals
Many times, after you’ve made the decision to invest in your professional development you want to dive in full-speed. As with most things we approach this way, the momentum will only take us so far. Setting goals that are realistic for your current season of life helps you be a consistent giver when networking.
How many coffee or lunch meetings per month are reasonable for you? What about early morning or after work events? Are you involved in too many organizations? You’ll learn in tip #3 that a lot of networking can be done from your office, so don’t add to your overwhelm by overscheduling too many out of office networking events.
Once you’ve set your goals, get comfortable saying no to things that don’t comply. It might sound odd for a networking coach to tell you to limit networking events, but an overwhelmed networker is the worst kind. You don’t have the stamina to follow-up with new contacts, maintain current relationships, or add value in a meaningful way. Learning to set realistic goals and stick to them makes you more effective and saves your sanity.
Use Your Calendar
Your calendar can be your best friend when it comes to networking. Set quarterly, monthly, weekly, and even daily recurring reminders to keep you on track. But also make sure to only dedicate the allotted amount of time to the networking task! Consistency is key here – it’s easy to stop when time is up when you know you can get back to it when it shows up on your calendar again.
Calendar reminders also help you stay consistent when building relationships. Want to follow-up with someone in a few months? Put a reminder in your calendar now. Just a short reminder to “Check-in with Joe” plugged in to your calendar is all you need to remind yourself to nurture that relationship.
Add Value Without Meeting In-Person
Networking does not always have to be in-person. In fact, there are many ways to add value without meeting someone in-person. Some ideas include:
- schedule a phone call
- send a handwritten note or birthday card
- e-mail a helpful article, podcast, or book recommendation
- create a top-ten facts about you/your practice area and have that ready to send off to help your network get to know you better
- post an update on social media
Start incorporating these into your normal practice and watch relationships grow and your anxiety over fitting in too many coffees or lunches dramatically decrease.
Streamline When Possible
There are many ways to streamline, and even automate, some common networking practices. Some ideas include:
- Create a template of common notes you find yourself writing and refer to it when you’re not sure what to write
- Use a service like Postable to automatically send birthday or other cards
- Keep a running list of contacts you want to send holiday cards to – start it NOW and thank yourself in December
- Keep a running list of common book, article, and podcast recommendations so you can send the links quickly in an email
While being a giver when networking is critical to building lasting relationships, you should never do so at the expense of your sanity. Being a giver means adding value to relationships, not overextending yourself to the point of burnout.