“Downtime” is usually a term dreaded by IT professionals, especially when it’s paired with the word “network.”
In summer, however, the office slows down. Hopefully, this downtime eases some of the daily demands placed on IT teams and network admins. But summer is also an opportunity for IT pros to work on another important network: their professional industry connections.
Here are some ways to mix career networking into your summer as easily as blending a sweet, frosty cocktail.
Think about the top one or two industry connections on your Most Wanted networking list. Then find out what they’ve put out into the universe: books, blogs, podcasts, TED Talks? Since you’re always too busy, um, working to get around to consuming all of that content, use some of your summer downtime to finally catch up.
Again, keep it easy and breezy during summer. Listen to podcasts and TED Talks while you’re driving or hiking. (If it’s a book, get the audio version of it). You can also read blogs and watch TED Talks at the cottage or beach, provided there’s good Internet access. If your rural connection is fuzzy, download the content and watch, read or listen to it on a beach, patio or Italian piazza.
You’ll end the summer knowing more about these key people on your networking wish list. If you eventually meet them, you’ll have a better chance of forging a successful connection with them.
Many people heading out on business trips are tacking on an extra day or two (at their own expense, of course) for fun personal excursions in the same city as their conference or meeting. This trend is called bleisure travel.
If you’ve already got a vacation booked, why not reverse engineer the trend and find a networking opportunity in the same city as your holiday destination?
Since it’s your vacation, keep it fun and short. Before you leave, try to book coffee or lunch with someone (hopefully in a leadership or mentoring position) who hails from a relevant company or industry association in the same city as your holiday. You’ll gather intel about a different regional market in your sector while forging at least one new career contact.
A mixer is not a meetup. Nor is it a networking breakfast, workshop, conference or seminar. It’s primarily for fun, with a splash of networking potential on the side.
Invite three or four people you know. The ideal mix of guests is a few from your industry and a few from outside it. Choose people you genuinely find interesting and who you believe would contribute something socially or professionally valuable to the entire group.
To reiterate, the goal is to have an enjoyable summer social occasion that may broaden your industry connections over time. You may not get a job or find a talented new recruit at your mixer. But you could learn some fascinating things and make deep social or professional links that last for years.
If the first mixer is a hoot, host another one or suggest alternating hosting duties among group members. Keep it small while slightly changing the membership each time. Good summer mixer scenarios? Wine and cheese on a trendy patio, iced caffeine bevvies at a hip coffee shop or cocktails and apps (the kind you eat, not install) in your own backyard.
Avoid networking events
It’s summer! Instead of networking, wouldn’t you rather be playing sports, going to concerts, joining a wine club or taking an art class?
Zak Slayback argues those activities won’t just make you happier, they’ll also enrich your career connections more than any formal networking event.
In a blog post aptly titled Don’t Go To Networking Events, the author, career strategist and venture capitalist argues that “the kind of people you need to meet” — namely executives, business owners, investors and decision makers — “don’t attend networking events” because, a) they’re too busy, and b) “they already have strong networks.”
Engaging in activities you’re personally passionate about exposes you to new people with shared interests. Since you already have one thing in common, it breaks through the initial awkwardness that makes everyone hate business networking events.
Over time, these people will either become business connections or introduce you to new business connections.
In his blog, Slayback describes a wine-loving friend who pays $100 to attend wine tasting events. It seems pricey, but Slayback explains that the friend is a realtor who meets “experienced property owners looking to sell all the time at these wine tastings. His ROI on a $100 night can easily be $10,000.”
If the wine tastings lead to real estate deals, great. If not, Slayback’s buddy still gets to discover some great summer chardonnays. Cheers!