Go Out to Lunch!

Use those coffee and lunch breaks to keep networking

One of the biggest mistakes career-growth-minded women make in their careers is that they do not go out to lunch enough. They sit at their desks and work through the lunch break, stopping just long enough to take bites of whatever salad or sandwich they brought that day. I know, I used to do this in my early corporate career.  What made me see the light? 

I desperately needed to get away from an inept and manipulative boss, so I spent one to two days per week networking with people in other areas of the firm until I created the change I desired.  That next opportunity came about as a result of connections I created over time through those networking efforts, which ultimately benefitted from a colleague who sponsored me (which was in a previous article found here.)

You may think you’re demonstrating commitment by staying at your desk, but all you’re doing is stunting your own growth. Because by staying at your desk all the time, you’re not creating connections or your own community outside your direct reporting silo. Continuing to build your professional network is the most important first step you can take to continually advance your career, even after you’ve landed that “dream job.”

I tell my program participants that they should be networking every week. Every week, you should be meeting with someone new or grabbing a coffee with a colleague you had not met before or haven’t caught up with in some time. You may be thinking, “Once a week? That’s too much, I don’t have time for that.” But guess what: the men are making the time.

I tease that men go out to lunch in droves, but it’s not really a joke. I would bet you anything that the men in your office are taking the time to get lunch with colleagues at least once a week. It’s in those casual meet-ups where they’re getting the 411 on everything happening in the company. They’re learning about who is coming and going, which projects are coming down the pipeline, and getting an idea for what others are earning. And so when an opportunity arises, it’s no surprise that these are the people who learn about it first and jump on it. 

One of the things I talk about often in my Lead With Confidence workshops is the importance of developing relationships with sponsors. These are the people, typically in positions one to two levels above you, who can help you advance in your career. (I explain the difference between sponsors and mentors in an earlier blog post, which you can read here).

Lunch and coffee breaks are an ideal time to develop these types of connections. When you’ve nurtured a real relationship with someone, they are more likely to think of you when an opportunity arises and either let you know about it or recommend you for the position.

It’s about working smarter, not harder. And working smarter means leveraging your networks, which take time to cultivate. Even just a 15-minute stroll for coffee is a significant time investment that could lead to advancement or opportunity down the road. The worst case?  It results in “nothing” and yet you just spent 15 minutes away from your desk refreshing your mind and taking a breather.  In other words, it has payoff no matter how you look at it.

You just have to be willing to put in the time. And you do have it. One of the things the women in my workshops tell me is that there is no gender difference in terms of workload. They don’t feel like they have a larger workload than men. If that’s true, then it comes down to the commitment to your career.  Can you commit to create a new and expanded community, and ultimately create a more interesting and fulfilling career path?

Curious to learn more about what you could be doing to advance your career? Click here.

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