Being a working parent doesn’t mean the end of a thriving network, it just means you have to get a bit more creative and deliberate. Here are a few techniques I’ve found that work for me, and that may also help you:
— PRESS PAUSE ON NEW CONTACTS. When your kids are small, finding time to make new contacts can be a challenge, but there’s a wealth of opportunity and new information that can come from old friends and former colleagues.
— EXPLORE THE FRINGES. After you’ve reconnected with lots of dormant ties, start exploring who is on the edges of your network by asking for introductions from those weak ties. As with old contacts, it’s a more time-efficient way to connect, since there’s an intermediary you both share.
— GET VIRTUAL. With video technology advancing fast, a high-fidelity face-to-face conversation can happen without either of you leaving the office, or your home.
— PRACTICE INTRODUCTIONS. One of the most powerful things you can do to strengthen your network involves not meeting new people at all, but instead connecting two contacts in your network to each other.
— USE BUSINESS TRAVEL WISELY. If you’re traveling to a conference, do some research ahead of time to find out who else is coming and schedule quick chats throughout the event.
— TALK TO YOUR PARENT FRIENDS ABOUT MORE THAN JUST KID STUFF. Research on social networks suggests that your most valuable connections come from people with whom you share multiple contexts (called your multiplex ties). So examining non-kid interests, hobbies and even work can lead to a stronger bond and more reasons to stay connected.
If a lot of these steps seem like a regular part of networking, that’s because they are. We just tend to forget about them.
(David Burkus is an associate professor at Oral Roberts University.)