How to Network When You Don’t Have Time to Network

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There are incalculable benefits to networking. Nearly three-quarters of people say they are directly influenced by someone’s first impression and introduction and 85% of jobs are filled through personal connections and networking. Despite this, one in four don’t do it at all and 41% who want to do more simply don’t have the time.

Life is busy. Routinely making the meet-and-greet circuit can be yet one more thing on your to-do list that you simply don’t have time for. But the value is too great to ignore it completely. Fortunately, in the digital age, there are alternatives—ways to stay in touch with people and create new connections without time-intensive meetups, lunches, and happy hours. Let’s look at three ways to get the most out of what little time you have.

Leverage a Local Meetup Group

One of the most time intensive parts of networking is finding the right people to spend time with. There are websites and online services designed solely to circumvent this problem. Some of the most effective include:

  • Meetup.com: Meetup was created with the explicit goal of helping like-minded people with similar interests find and engage with each other locally. Download the mobile app and you can find dozens of local groups in which to meet and connect with people. The best part about Meetup is that you can focus strictly on professional connections or look for cross-sections. For example, if you are a graphic designer, you could join design mastermind groups that aren’t strictly for professional networking.
  • Facebook Groups: Facebook is a universal social network, with more than 2.41 billion monthly active users around the globe. While not designed explicitly for events, the platform has become one of the largest in the world due to the sheer size of its user base. Whether with a group you’re already a part of or not, there are likely dozens of local events you can choose from.
  • IAW: With dozens of chapters around the United States, IAW keeps members connected through live events, virtual meetings and workshops, and much more. There are several similar online networking groups designed for specific industries and groups.

Virtual Networking Opportunities

While you can use the above networking tools to meet people in person, there are an equal number of virtual alternatives that allow you to connect with people without leaving your office. For many busy professionals, this is the only way networking will happen. Fortunately, technology makes it possible. Some of the most impactful digital networking opportunities include:

  • Online Forums: Digital forums allow you to send messages and respond to conversations from anywhere in the world on your mobile device. Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups or Pages, and more are all prime places to invest time in building online relationships.
  • eChapter Meetings: Several networking groups (including IAW) offer eChapter meetings where members from anywhere can dial in and participate in interactive presentations and networking sessions. For those in remote locations or those too busy to attend regular meetings, this is a prime opportunity to build a budding network.
  • Skype and Google Hangouts: While there are plenty of tools to meet new people in a larger setting online, sometimes you want to communicate and stay connected with a smaller group. Free video conferencing tools such as Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom provide an easy to use solution in which you can conference in a large number of people in a geographically distributed networking group.

Become a Thought Leader

The Internet provides an amplifier to anyone with a voice who wants to be heard. And when you speak, like-minded people will gravitate. Thought leadership is a fantastic way to passively network and meet new people you wouldn’t otherwise engage with. Some ways in which you can do this include:

  • Daily Social Posting: Leverage social media. Post new content to LinkedIn in particular every day, but also to Twitter and Facebook when you have something interesting to share or a new article to publish.
  • Producing Content: Content can be in any form, but the more you publish and the more relevant it is to your audience, the better. Some low-cost options include blogging, starting a podcast, writing long-form articles or posts on LinkedIn, sharing on industry forums, or producing an email newsletter.
  • Being Willing to Say Yes: If someone asks for your input, provide it. Say yes to opportunities to speak at local events or in your office. Say yes when someone sends you an email with questions about something that’s important to their career. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone to build your network, especially if they come to you.

The Benefits of Networking are Immense

No matter how busy you are, find time to meet new people and continuously build your network. It will allow you the opportunity to create and nurture new relationships that will be beneficial to your career not only in the immediate future, but many years down the line.

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