Opinion: Who has time to network?

Networking needn't be one more thing added to your busy agenda. Everyday situations are natural opportunities to connect with people you meet

Networking needn’t be one more thing added to your busy agenda. Everyday situations are natural opportunities to connect with people you meet

Ask people what networking is, and their answer will include the words reception, conference, awkward schmoozing and one more thing to do at the end of my busy day. Our definition is different. Networking is not only about going to events.


Networking is an attitude

If there are two people standing (or sitting) next to one another, it’s an opportunity to connect. It’s what we call “high network shepa.” Shepa is the Tibetan word for consciousness or awareness. Take advantage of those opportunities around you all the time by looking up from your phone, stepping out of your comfort zone, getting up from your desk and talking rather than texting people. This kind of networking doesn’t take any more time, and here are some examples:

1. You are in the office elevator anyway…

  • Talk to the person in the elevator instead of looking up at the digital floor readout or engaging with your mobile device. Introduce yourself by name if it’s another person from your company, even someone more senior. The time it takes to ride that elevator will go by whether you scan your Instagram account or talk to the person next to you. The latter is a more powerful form of networking.

2. You have to eat lunch…

  • Sixty-two per cent of professionals typically eat lunch at their desk every day. Stop dining “al desko.” (We love this term, coined by Kate Bratskeir.) If there’s a lunch room at your work, why not join your colleagues? Leave your phone in your pocket or purse, no matter how tempting.
  • Put networking-with-other-humans in your calendar as a recurring event. Pick a day, and once a week get out of the office at lunch or coffee. Book these networking coffees or lunches or drinks with people in advance so you are less likely to jam out with the “too busy” excuse. During the nicest months of the year, get out more than once a week. You deserve it.

3. You walk down the hall…

  • Use the 10/5 Way. Ten feet away from another person, smile. Five feet away, say something! Time is ticking as you walk down the hall so use it as an opportunity to engage and make a human connection.
  • If you work in a large company, learn people’s names and use them when saying hi. People like that; they are flattered you know their name.

4. Your company puts on events…

  • Show up at company events—someone has worked hard putting them together. Don’t be too cool to engage in the silly things that sometimes happen. If you are in a leadership role, it is even more important to not be seen as too aloof to have fun. If it’s a costume thing, wear one. Put company get-togethers on your calendar and tell your kids, family or friends that you are staying late that day. Don’t be the person who has to go home “to make dinner for the kids”—that’s what takeout is for.

5. You go out with your friends…

  • Share your friends. If you are going out with a couple of friends who you see regularly, invite a few new people to join you for drinks or dinner. You are spending that time out, so diversify your own network and your friends’ networks.
  • Discover what you can do for your friends and colleagues. Have a little voice in your head operating at all times (that’s shepa at work) thinking about what you could do for others. It could mean sending an article, making a connection for them or acknowledging good work they did. Many of us may think about doing these things, but then think it will take too long and it won’t make a difference. It won’t take too long, and it will make a difference.

Gayle Hallgren-Rezac, Judy Thomson and Darcy Rezac, principals of Shepa Learning Company, are business networking speakers and authors of Work the Pond! Use the Power of Positive Networking to Leap Forward in Work and Life (Penguin/Prentice Hall)