49% of professionals don’t network as often as they want to because they don’t have enough time. This is a problem because most opportunities for professionals come through their network. One issue is that prime-parenting time is usually also prime-professional time, and no one is more time-constrained than working parents.
The best way to address time-constraints is to find activities that meet multiple needs.
Here are my top 7 networking tips for busy parents that leverage activities they need to engage in, even if they are not networking.
1) Use Your Lunch Hour for Networking
Long-time networking guru, Keith Ferrazzi has his mantra of Never Eat Lunch Alone, where he draws out the point that eating alone is lost opportunity for time-constrained professionals. For sure, happy hours are the enemy of those wanting to get home for dinner with kids. But lunches can more than make up for the loss.
Here are some ways to use your lunch hour to expand your network:
● Attend lunch networking events
● Invite new connections out for lunch
● Use the time to reach out and follow-up with people you want to develop stronger relationships with
These activities give you face time with your network without pulling you away from your family.
2) Maximize Every Hour Spent on Business Trips
Every honest parent will admit that even the most dreaded travel allows for much-needed downtime, a kind of parental reprieve. Even so, that same travel represents rich networking potential.
Before booking flights, check LinkedIn, and/or your CRM to see if you have any connections in the area you’re visiting. If so, reach out and ask if they’re available to meet while you’re in town. Prialto’s PAs are trained to do this as a default when they are planning travel for their members.
Once you know who you’re meeting with, you can make travel arrangements with enough time to complete your trip’s purpose and strengthen your relationships.
3) Make Conversation with Other Parents
If your kids are involved in sports or other after school activities, you may not have time to attend happy hours, but you can meet lots of other parents. Instead of staring at your phone while you wait for your kids to wrap up, use this time as a networking opportunity. There’s a strong chance that some of the other parents are valuable professional connections to have.
I generally avoid doing business with parents around my kids’ network. But talking a bit with them about my profession and my company has still led to valuable professional introductions.
4) Only Attend High Impact Events
If you’re working to grow your network, you need to attend some events to meet new people. It’s tempting just to attend events that are at convenient times and locations; however, when you take this approach, there’s no guarantee that you’ll meet anyone who adds value to your network.
To maximize the value of your networking efforts, you need to be highly selective about where you spend your time. To do so, know the profile of people you want to meet and figure out what events they attend. This may take some trial and error, but once you know where your audience hangs out, every networking event you attend will yield valuable connections.
It is easy to just go through the motion of attending industry events and fail to gain measurably. But if one is strategic and proactive, the time ROI is easy to achieve.
5) Stay In Touch with Old Connections
It requires far less time and effort to maintain existing relationships than it does to create new ones. Since you already have rapport with current connections, it’s much easier to have quick phone conversations while maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship.
Blocking off an hour or two a week to check in with contacts is an easy way to keep your network healthy even when you don’t have time to meet new people.
Your long-standing connections will understand short and targeted check-ins during your busiest parenting periods. This makes them that much more valuable in terms of time-and-effort.
6) Take Advantage of Virtual Networking Opportunities
Virtual networking opportunities such as online conferences, LinkedIn groups, and industry forums are great spaces to network for parents who don’t have the time to attend in-person events.
Networking over online conferences and meetings cuts down on wasted and expensive travel time and can lead to as many new connections and opportunities.
Keep in mind that, like all networking activities, the majority of virtual opportunities are a waste of time. You need to find the groups that your target audience is active in and participate in the conversations that are most related to your goals.
7) Be a Matchmaker
One of the easiest ways to add value to your network is to be a matchmaker. This is the you-should-know-so-and-so economy. Introducing two people with mutually beneficial skills just takes a quick email but can have a considerable impact on their success. Your connections will attribute that some of that success to you and will usually be more than happy to reciprocate with an introduction or other favor when you need it.
To leverage this networking strategy, pay close attention to people’s challenges and strengths so that you can match people with complementary needs.
Be sure you are a selective curator and only introduce two people you know well or with whom you’ve directly experienced doing business.
Such introductions are powerful when the two people end up embarking on a long-term relationship as you will forever be remembered as the person who brought them together.
Business networking is vital for all professionals who are dependent on referrals to grow their business. This is daunting because people are often most in need of growing their business during the prime years that they are also learning to be new parents. Even so, several strategies allow one to maximize efficiency and network under even the most time-constrained conditions.
Still feel like you don't have time to network? Download our free guide How to Leverage a Virtual Assistant for Professional Networking to learn how a VA can tackle all of the tedious, logistical networking steps so all you can focus on building stronger relationships.
About the Author: Eric Taussig is Prialto's founder/ CEO. He speaks and writes about the future of work, global workforce, and employee happiness issues. His ideas have been featured on National Public Radio and in places like Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine and Inc. Magazine.