How to network when you have no time to network.

The Oregon Women Lawyers (OWL) invited me to speak on the topic of work-life balance.

< Insert laugh track here >

The event was today in Salem, Oregon.

When they first asked me to present, I jokingly (sort of) told my husband that my entire presentation would be as follows:

"Hi everyone. It's impossible. Thanks for inviting me. So long!"

But then they explained what they really wanted - Talk to us about how to network when you feel like you have no time to network.

That, I could do. 

It is precisely how I live just about every day of my life.

So here's the magic formula (It's admittedly not that magical, but it works):

  1. Don't freak if you truly have no time for socials and mixers and business card exchanges. Yes, little hors d'ouevres plates and small talk can be beneficial. But when you work 40-60 hours a week and have kids, pets, and/or other demands going on? 

    It's not always practical. Figure out, instead, how to leverage social media (LinkedIn, if nothing else) for professional networking instead. You can do this any time of the day, from anywhere.
  2. Don't try and tackle it at once. Networking isn't a one-shot deal. Repeat, not a one shot deal. You don't just do it when you're looking for a new job, or a favor, or a contact ... and then forget about it until you need  another favor down the road. 

    Professional networking is an ongoing investment. If you pay into it on a regular basis? You get a return on your investment. Sometimes, a huge one. This absolutely doesn't have to be a six-hours-a-week investment. Shoot for 10 minutes a day, or an hour a week. SOMETHING. Just craft a game plan, and work consistently at keeping your network fresh and current.
  3. Realize the power of "top-of-mind." I am quite certain that many people adore you. But if you fail to stay top-of-mind among people of influence? They won't necessarily forget that they adore you, but it's entirely possible that you won't be the first person who comes to mind when, say, there's an amazing job opening at their company. 

    You stay top of mind? You win.  

    It's more about the commitment than the TIME commitment when it comes to professional networking. And thanks to social media tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook? It's easier than it has ever been to stay top of mind.
  4. Cut yourself slack, but don't slack. Having "no time" means you must make good use of the little slivers you do have (you do have them, I know you do.) Spend less time beating yourself over what you're not doing, and more time crafting networking solutions that actually will work given your time constraints and life demands.

It's that important to your career.

Strong network = better career potential.