Podcast: Networking for parents

Networking is one of those topics where the name may stand in the way of implementation. “Networking” sounds so cheesy and transactional. In my commencement speech, I do a little riff talking about “networking” in the funny voice that I’m ascribing to people giving career advice. It’s kind of like “plastics” that way.

Of course, the bad connotations people have for the word itself don’t change the fact that people are, in general, a good use of time. It doesn’t change that anything big you want to accomplish professionally will probably involve other people. And it doesn’t change that you need to meet these people and build relationships with them.

So…how can busy people fit networking into their lives? In this week’s podcast episode, Sarah and I discuss how working parents can make time for the soft side of work. Among our points:

Shutting yourself in your office and working through lunch is not actually productive. True, people have daycare pick-ups to make, and others do not want to do the “split shift.” But lunch can be great for getting to know your colleagues in a relaxed way. Various management research has found that a lot of information in companies is transmitted informally, which is a fancy way for saying in the cafeteria or in the diner nearby that everyone goes to. I’m not saying eat lunch with people daily but…sometimes?

Working parents can do happy hours. This is not an either/or thing. Going out to drinks with your team some night does not make you a bad parent. Unless you’re the guy already going to the bar with his mates for 3 hours after work every night, you can probably go out sometimes, and still wind up being home a lot.

Go to conferences. Yes, the panels are sometimes pointless. Yes, any food served to 250 people is not  going to be awesome. But professional conferences are a great way to cement ties with people you only see occasionally. A side note: Sarah discussed the phenomenon of people bringing their families to conferences. Handle with care. These can be great opportunities to immerse yourself in professional connections, so you want to make sure that whoever else is with your kids (spouse/partner/caregiver) is cool with you deciding last minute to do a dinner…because that’s kind of the point of being at the conference. If you want to be sure to have family time in your destination, come a day or two early or stay a day or two after.

Use electronic means. We cited Molly Beck’s new book/method, Reach Out, as a very doable way to network. Send one email a day to someone you want to reconnect with, or met recently, or that a friend/colleague said you should get to know. It’s very simple, but the discipline of doing this daily builds a powerful network over time.

I’d love more suggestions. How do you invest in the “soft side” of work, given your family responsibilities? How do you meet people inside and outside your organization? How do you keep your network strong over time?


6 thoughts on “Podcast: Networking for parents

  1. Hey Laura, is there any way I would be able to read the transcripts or summary or some article version of these great podcasts? that would be really aweseome.. thanks alot!

  2. I am really enjoying the podcasts! I am a long time reader of both blogs.

    My issue with after work happy hours is the spontaneity. When someone wanders into my office at five and asked if I want to go out for a beer the answer is always going to be no because I haven’t arranged for childcare. I know that this can be solved by organizing it myself – sending around an email earlier in the week to our group and asking if anybody wants to go out on Thursday afternoon when I know I’ll have coverage. I don’t always do this, but at least I know it’s an option.

    Constructive criticism: Laura’s Voice has sounded tinny/echoey on the past couple of episodes. I don’t know if something is different with your recording set up? I don’t hear it in Sarah’s voice & I don’t remember from the first episodes. I am looking forward to the interviews!

    1. @Susan – very smart suggestion about being the person organizing the happy hour. Then it happens on the night when you have childcare. People with more flexible schedules (e.g. no kids) might not care about the night, but if you do, then organizing means you can set it when it works for you.

      Tinny voice- yes. I was recording in my bathroom because the kids were running through the rest of the house. I thought I might be able to escape their noise that way. But you can tell in the sound quality! And unfortunately, we were total machines on recording that day, getting through 3 episodes. But those have now run their course. The next three were all recorded in carpeted rooms with curtains, so there shouldn’t be an echoey sound. I hope!

      1. I found this inspiring, maybe in an odd way. So many of us put off doing thing sbecause we need the perfect set up to do it “I’ll go to the ygm once I’ve got those new shoes etc” but you’re podcasting from the bathroom because doing these things is more important than minor impediments!

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