As a Career Mentor I advise my clients to network, network, network. Frequently, I can hear the sigh of their response before they even speak. “Yes, I know that’s what I’m supposed to do,” clients say heavily. “But there’s no way I’m going to skip an evening with my kids or spouse—or my chill-out time with Netflix, a glass of wine and my couch—to mingle with a hundred-plus strangers.”

As someone who tends toward introversion, schmooze fests are just as hard for me to stomach as they are for you. Sometimes I can drape on my Super-Networker Cape, and if I’m wearing the right outfit and feel super great that day, I can do pretty well. Honestly, though, I get much more value out of one-on-one conversations. So for me, networking means coffee or a phone call—not crowded, impersonal events. If you’re looking for manageable ways to network, here are some simple ideas to try.

1. Invite a former colleague/boss to lunch. Too often people discount the most obvious network contacts. People you used to work with are your biggest advocates for your next career move. Call up an old friend and go to lunch.

2. Have a “virtual” coffee appointment: Too busy to meet in person? Schedule a call (phone or video), grab a cup of tea or coffee, and spend 20 minutes catching up with a well-connected colleague. This can even be done during your business day: Use a conference room, shut your office door, or step out of the building and make the call on your cell.

3. Share an article. Have you ever read an article or blog post that makes you think of someone else? How often do you tell them? In the moment, forward along an article with a note about your memory of your acquaintance and say, “How the heck are you? Let’s catch up.”

4. Ask your neighbors what they do. Do you know where your neighbors work? What they do? Where their friends work? There’s a wealth of contacts in your literal back yard.

5. Engage with other parents. Those Saturday afternoons on the soccer field are a great time to strike up conversations. Birthday parties work well too.

6. Talk to strangers. Your parents were wrong. Strangers are just friends we haven’t yet met. Chat with strangers wherever and whenever it feels natural: in a long check-out line, at yoga class. I landed my first corporate recruiting job because of an introduction that happened while I was on the treadmill at my gym.

7. Offer praise. Write a recommendation for a former colleague or boss on LinkedIn. Begin by giving, and then you will receive.

8. Ask a vendor to coffee or lunch. Meeting outside of the office setting is a great way to establish a relationship with vendors who may have leads into other companies.

Be curious! Be bold! Be genuine! Networking doesn’t have to be about large party events, it’s just another way to manage your relationships. That reminds me, I have a former boss I haven’t heard from in a while. Time to schedule a call…

What ways do you stay connected?  Share your ideas and I’ll incorporate them in my next newsletter.

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