Eating As A Networking Opportunity

Do you ever eat alone?  We all have at some point as a matter of circumstance or choice.  But you shouldn’t make it a habit.

At the very least, eating may be a time when you get away from the hustle and bustle of the day.  It may be your time to escape from the office where you’re staring at the computer screen, answering phone calls, or preparing for a presentation.  Whatever the reason is that propels you to run out the door for lunch, chances are it may also lead you stay out for an entire hour.

One whole hour.  That’s a lot of time.

Ever thought about fitting something else into that time that doesn’t take away from your goal of experiencing freedom and relaxation?  It is very possible.  Not only could you have an enjoyable time while eating with company but you could also achieve some of your other goals in the area of personal development, for example.

Eating isn’t just a necessity; across different cultures, it is also a way of socializing and building and enhancing relationships.  These relationships may be personal or professional; but ultimately, they are the foundation of your network.  And by now, it is no secret that having a strong network is vital.  However, since building relationships take time, the goal here is maximize your time by accomplishing multiple objectives simultaneously.

So here is how you can do it:

Make it a point to eat at least one meal with someone else each day. If you’re an early riser, breakfast may be ideal for you.  But if you’re not, there is always lunch or dinner.  That’s connecting at least 7 times per week out of 21 opportunities; this isn’t asking too much right?

So now that you have a game plan, who should you eat with?

Colleague. Maybe this is someone you work with.  You work with them today, but they may move on to something else tomorrow and be an asset to you.  You never know.

Mentor. It is great to have someone who has been there and can provide you with their insight.  Whether the advice is about what you should or shouldn’t do, this usually enhances efficiency.  And it is great to have someone who is genuinely interested in your progress and success that you can touch base with periodically.

Someone you admire. This one is simple.  It doesn’t always have to be focused on you.  Take the time to let someone know the positive impact they have on those around them.  They may not know; so give credit where credit is due.

Potential or existing client. Whether you work for yourself or for a company, you may have clients who are important to you and whose business you want to retain.  Having a conversation over lunch about topics outside of your business will make you more personable and enhance the relationship.  Or maybe you met someone at an event who you would like to become a client and discuss what services you or your company offer.  Take them to lunch to discuss how you can meet their needs.

Friends and family. This isn’t one to forget.  Non-business relationships also need to be fostered.  Aunt Margaret hasn’t seen you in two months; take her to dinner.

Now, here’s your task:

Starting tomorrow, invite someone out to breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Don’t eat alone.  Maximize your time by accomplishing the necessity of nourishment while taking the steps to build relationships that will enhance your network.  You’re doing this at least 7 times out of a possible 21 times each week.  See what your schedule allows; you may even be able to fit in more!

From Game Plan Mondays to Friendly Fridays

Whether you have a print out or your trustworthy GPS, it helps to have directions when you’re traveling on the road of life!  It helps you avoid detours, speed bumps, wasting money on tolls and wasting your precious time!  So why not apply the same preparedness even when you’re not sitting in the car?  Each day, you’re still the driver and essentially steering your life.  So here’s how you can get a tighter grip and steer to success.

Plan whenever, wherever and however you can.  Planning increases productivity and efficiency when it is done correctly.  There will always be changes and variables, but being in control of what you can will allow you more time to focus on unforeseen situations.  If we take your week for instance, here’s a suggestion for breaking it into manageable pieces that you won’t have to think about when each week rolls around.

Game Plan Mondays

Monday.  You’re well rested from the weekend and looking forward to tackling yet another week.  And of course, you want it to be even more productive than the last.  This is a great time to “start fresh” by stepping back and looking at things from a big picture point-of-view. You will benefit best by being honest with yourself about your assessment, and this will really help you outline what you need to accomplish in the upcoming week.  You can make a list of the goals for the upcoming week.  The extent of detail in your list is really up to you, but having something in writing will make you more accountable for making sure it is accomplished.

Networking Tuesdays

On Tuesday, with your list in tow, you’re already focusing on what you need to do for yourself.  Outside of you, there is your network to build and expand.  This is an ongoing process that needs to be nurtured.  Yes, networking takes time.  It takes time to attend events, have conversation, connect with people, leave that lasting impression and build mutually beneficial relationships.  So you will have to make the effort and time to be out and about.  This could be your Tuesday activity.  Each week you can identify a new location or an event to attend.  You can even specify the number of connects you want to make each Tuesday.  Either way, get ready to work the room!

Branding Wednesdays

Just like Adidas didn’t build their brand overnight, you won’t build yours in a day or in one week.  This will happen over time with consistency and focus.  Outline what you want your brand to stand for and detail the ways you will accomplish this.  Each Wednesday you can assess how you did during the prior week.  And going forward, you can plan your next step.  Is your brand well-positioned?  Do you need to consider repositioning?  Is your brand credible?   These are some of the questions you should ask yourself every Wednesday.

Personal Development Thursdays

I don’t want to be the one to burst the bubble, but there is always room to improve!  This will be the focus on Thursday.  Whether it is identifying what books to read on a certain subject matter, signing up for a class to help you stay current in your field, sharpening your expertise, or taking time to learn from other people’s experiences, there are many ways to develop yourself.  At the end of the day, your growth is your personal responsibility; nobody else can do it for you.  The work you put in each Thursday will determine your preparedness for the future.

Friendly Fridays

By the time Friday rolls around, you would have done a lot!  And I know the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment is setting in.  You deserve to reward yourself but don’t forget to reward and recognize others also.  There is enough room for each of us to be successful and we should support each other.  So on Friday, reach out and give someone else that extra push they need to cross off the last few items from their list.  Help them see that the light at the end of the tunnel; the weekend will be much more enjoyable knowing that you had a productive week!

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