How often do you find yourself eating lunch at your desk? If you decide to work through lunch you could be hurting your chances for growth opportunity. Not just because companies are now looking for balanced employees, but perhaps because you may be missing out on opportunities to network with other people.
Oftentimes people assume that networking has to involve big formal (and let’s face it, sometimes stuffy) events. For some this can be a really overwhelming situation where they find it difficult to connect with others. The good news is that using lunch hour to network and advance your career can be as simple as effectively applying the following tips:
Connect with people you haven’t seen in a while.
The easiest place to start is to connect with people you already know, but perhaps haven’t seen in some time. Send them an email and ask to catch up over lunch. No pressure of a formal meeting makes it as easy as two friends updating each other on their professional lives.
Consider conducting informational interviews.
If you’re considering a career move but aren’t quite sure about it try conducting informational interviews with others in your field. Informational interviews are meetings where you’re asking all the questions about a position as a way of learning about it. It’s an easy way of seeing what’s out there and making important connections.
Find someone in your field who is doing what you want and ask them out to lunch. People are usually flattered when you tell them you’d like to learn about their career path so it shouldn’t be a hard request.
Practice the art of small talk.
In a world of constant digital connection some individuals have lost the art of small talk. Small talk is the ability to have a conversation with someone in a friendly atmosphere while avoiding arguments and touchy subjects. This skill is a great way to get to know someone, make a good first impression, and build self-confidence.
You can use your lunch hour to practice the art of small talk in many ways. Perhaps you don’t even leave the office but decide to have a chat with your co-workers. Even this can show management that you’re social, engaged, and a team player.
If you’re not sure where to start the University of Oklahoma has a great guide on practicing the art of small talk.
Have phone conversations with contacts you’ve met online.
It’s one thing to have a ton of contacts on LinkedIn, it’s another thing to actually talk to them. One great way to network is to actually get on the phone with individuals you’ve connected with online. A quick 15 minute conversation during your lunch hour can add a lot of value to your professional life.
Join small networking groups in your local area.
Small networking groups are popping up all over thanks to sites like MeetUp. Rather than going to huge networking events that could cost you hundreds for a plate of food and a presentation, consider finding smaller groups of local professionals. They are usually much less formal and the intimate environment allows for great connections.
If you can’t find the kind of group you’re looking for you can always start one yourself. All it takes is gathering some colleagues at a coffee shop to create a mastermind group.
Networking is a great way to make connections and gain some valuable career insight. Knowing that eating lunch at your desk can hurt your job promotion potential, you should now begin to see this time as a way to increase your networking activities. You’re not only getting away from your desk, you’re also taking a major step toward advancing your career.
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