4 Easy Ways to Network When You're a Busy Mom
To grow your career and keep your options open when it comes to future opportunities, you know that networking is a must. You enjoy meeting other professionals, shaking hands and learning about all the different companies and jobs that exist out there.
But it’s not as easy as it was before kids to grab lunch or coffee or drinks with someone to catch up. Why do so many networking events take place in the very early morning or during the “witching hour”? How does any working mom make networking a reality?
With strict childcare drop-off and pick-up times, mornings being a mad rush and evenings out of the question unless you’re willing to hire a babysitter every time, it can feel impossible.
Not to mention that many days, you have to use your lunch hour to catch up on email or you run errands grabbing last minute groceries or school supplies that you didn’t get to last weekend. Every minute of your day is filled with something that has to get done in the hours that you have for work.
Networking Is Work
Networking is work. It takes time and attention - two things that you are woefully short on these days as a working mom.
So you have a choice to make.
Are you going to completely fall off the band-wagon during these years when your kids are young?
Or are you going to get creative and intentional about making networking work for you?
I’m choosing the latter and I want to share with you how I am making it work for me:
1. Stay In the Know
Whether or not you’re actively out there meeting people and learning about your industry in your local area, it’s so easy to stay current with what’s going on with the web and email. Find a few industry publications, local or national, where you can subscribe for a weekly digest of updates or event happenings. It’s the easiest way to stay connected. You should also be skimming LinkedIn from time to time to keep up with your network, see the job changes that are happening, and be inspired by some pretty great content that’s being shared on that platform. You’re probably already skimming Facebook or Instagram on a regular basis. Just replace one of those sessions with LinkedIn. And another easy one to keep the wheels turning and think about the growth of your career is to check job sites from time to time. This gives you great insight into the industries, the positions, the fields that are growing so you can think about that when you’re reaching out to make connections or for if you ever decide to make your own change in the future. All of these ideas are things you can do from your computer or your phone and require very little extra effort. They’re what you should be doing at the very least.
2. Stay Top of Mind
Related to scrolling and staying current with LinkedIn, an easy way to stay current and top of mind with your own network is to get active on LinkedIn or whatever professional forum/community site is relevant for your industry. Share an article now and then, like your colleague’s recent update or job change, comment on something that sparks your interest. Make sure your name and face are showing up in others’ feeds. Remind them that just because you had kids, doesn’t mean you’re not still out there working hard in your career. People pay attention to those that are active on professional sites. I know I do.
3. Make Direct Connections
Getting out in front of people is not always the easiest thing now that you’re a working mom. But forfeiting a lunch even just once a month should be doable. If you plan for it in advance and know that you’re not going to have that time to run errands or work through lunch, you should be able to make it happen. One lunch or one coffee a month is 12 people each year that you are making meaningful connections with. Whether those are former colleagues, people you meet via mutual introduction, informational interviews… whatever you’re comfortable with. It’s an investment and something you have to be purposeful about, but face-to-face is always best. The easiest way to tackle this, I have found, is to brainstorm a list of people you would be interested in meeting or catching up with. Then just start reaching out and start scheduling. And if getting lunch or coffee is truly out of the question for you, then send an email or a card. Tell them a bit about what you’re up to with your career, thank them for the role they’ve played in your professional development or send them an article that you think they might be interested in reading. Make it personal and the effect can be the same.
4. Pick One Networking Event
Even though it’s hard, and even though some of these can be uncomfortable, networking events in your community or in your industry are such a great bang for your buck. You get to meet people you might not ever have met, you get to be seen, and you get to feel like an adult. Since you don’t have unlimited time to go to all the networking events, you have to be strategic. Ask around your own network, follow organizations that interest you, and start to put together a list of events that could be of benefit to you and your career. And then plan ahead to do even just one event a quarter. Sure, it might mean some Herculean efforts to find a babysitter or rearrange your evening schedule to accommodate it, and that’s why you’re not going to schedule one every week, or even every month. But once every 3 months is enough to get you out there and it’s enough to remind yourself of all the opportunities that are out there. It’s about investing in your future. It’s about planting seeds for your career so that you always have options. It’s about preparing for growth.
You are still relevant
You may think that doing these small things to grow your network will never be enough to put you ahead. And sure, you might meet more people and be presented with more opportunities if you could be out there networking and attending various events every single week. But you’re going to take things at the pace and the speed that make sense for you right now. And doing something is better than doing nothing.
Now it’s just about making your plan and reminding yourself of the small commitments you are going to make to invest in your own career. Career growth doesn’t have to stop just because you become a mom. You are still relevant. You are still great at what you do. You just need to spend a small amount of purposeful time making sure that everyone else knows that too.