Give it a rest: Only you can prevent networking burnout
Also published in the Boston Business Journal here.
I like peppermint patties, popcorn and a hot bath after a long hike. However, unless I want to walk around like a shriveled up prune, it is a good idea to take a break every so often.
I am experiencing EEB -- Excessive Event Burnout. In the spirit of Independence Day, I am taking a break from feeling that I must attend every event in eastern Massachusetts.
You see, from my perspective, there are many ways to network, and summer is a great time to revisit some of the less obvious ones you may not be giving yourself credit for. Here are some ideas:
- Walk at lunch. Take a break on pretty days and invite others for a walk. It does not need to be long -- even 15 minutes around the block can give both your mind and body a change of scenery and posture.
- The Esplanade. On the 4th of July I was far away networking in the Canadian Rockies. Too many people at one event in Boston for me. Now with Friday night flicks and concerts, invite friends you have not seen in a while for a picnic and a movie or music.
- Restaurant Week. It goes from Aug. 5 to 10 and prices range from $20.07 for a three-course lunch to $33.07 for a three-course dinner. Try a new place to eat. Consider a table of four so you can actually have a conversation with the people you invite. Last year I got too ambitious and booked large tables. Make your reservations soon. (Tip -- let others know the price in advance so there is not any confusion who is picking up the tab.)
- Try a new activity. Note, I did not say sport. For me, I only run when I am late for a plane. Sports can be fun or incredibly intimidating. Activities do not have to be so. I once attended a baseball game with the Lowell Spinners. What fun to actually see a game and not hear profanity.
- Take an adult education class. In order to get over my fear of public speaking, I took acting classes This was an amazing way to gain confidence, meet new people, and challenge myself. Interestingly enough over half the people taking the class were non-native English speakers. I doubt I will ever try acting in a foreign language.
Do not eat lunch at your desk. This is fine every once in a while but eating with others is a low-key opportunity to get to know colleagues.
- Movies. There will be those intolerable hot days. Make a list of movies you would like to see and on a rainy or hot day; enjoy the comfort and distraction.
- Backyard barbecue. Cooking outside is not only enjoyable, but more forgiving. Try a recipe for beer can chicken or a special sauce you have wanted to try. Potluck is a great way to network for those on a budget. People enjoy bringing a special dish. Invite them to bring a copy of the recipe.
- Do not eat lunch at your desk. This is fine every once in a while but eating with others is a low-key opportunity to get to know colleagues.
- Photography. Grab your camera and go take some pictures. Maybe a nature walk or even sights in the city. Sign up for one of the many photo-sharing Web sites and post pictures from your outing. Please remember that these are photos others may see (e.g. your boss, significant other, neighbors). Be wise.
- Summer outing. If your company hosts such an event, enjoy responsibly. Remember those photo-sharing Web sites and how quickly digital images can travel the planet. Offer to help new hires meet others in the company. Have an icebreaker to get people to meet colleagues they may not during their work hours. Personally I do not like things that are too corny or rigorous.
- Hammocks. Relaxing with a book in a hammock is a great way to network with your eyelids. Keep a list of books people recommend. Summer is a great time to read something different from your normal genre.
- Appearance. While the summer is more relaxed, it is not a time to be sloppy or .... how to put it ... overshare one's physical assets. Professionalism is important at all times. Summer just might be the time you run into the executive you have always wanted to meet. However, it would be too bad to ruin that opportunity just because your clothing says you are ready for the beach. Men have it easier in this area -- well, other than the refrigerator repairman (for those old enough to remember Dan Akroyd on "Saturday Night Live").