Networking for Busy Working Moms

nametags - networking as a momI’m curious if I’m the only one: I really, really struggle with networking post-kids. So I’m curious, ladies: how do you fit networking into an already packed schedule as a working mom? How far in advance do you schedule networking events and conferences? Do you try to attend “bang for your buck” type things (where you can go to one event and see many people), or do you limit the time you spend at events (I have 15 minutes to see X, Y, and Z and then leave)? Do you spend more time researching networking events (which to go to, who to talk to) than you used to? And how about one-on-one networking, such as follow-up lunches, catch-up lunches, and more — are those more difficult to fit into your schedule now?

A related question: do you find that networking downward, such as attending alumni events to help mentor and sponsor younger women, is harder to fit into your schedule? Are you stingier with your time than you used to be?

For my $.02: It may be that my eldest is a bit of a handful and my youngest is still so young (under a year!), but networking is still a struggle. It’s a struggle to make an affirmative plan to go to the event, and it’s a struggle to muster the energy to be engaging and vivacious at the end of a long day. Then — if I actually make a new connection, or reconnect with an older connection — it’s a struggle to find time for the follow-up conversation. I keep hoping it’ll get a bit better when the boys are just a bit older, but… well, it’s a struggle right now.  So what are your tips, ladies? 

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(Pictured: Adaptive Path 5th Anniversary, originally uploaded to Flickr by Scott Beale.)

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Comments

  1. Heather says:

    I started a brand new job three months after having my baby. Networking is heavily emphasized as a way to advance at my firm, and outside of setting up lunches, I’ve found it practically impossible. I have to leave work every day at 6 on the dot in order to pick my kid up from daycare on time and then immediately go home to get him in bed. My firm has an excellent mentor program, and my (male) mentor keeps telling me to talk to some of the female partners who have young children. All of them have private nannies – of course it’s easy for them! As a young associate, there’s no way I can afford a nanny.

    I actually took my baby to what I knew would be a very informal work dinner back when I first started. Everything went well, I thought, until I got a stern talking to the next day at work. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    • Lorelai Gilmore says:

      And even nannies are not the miracle solution – many nannies don’t want to work into the evening hours. One option, if you can afford it, is to find a part-time babysitter who can handle picking up your child from daycare and putting him or her to bed. We have someone who does this for us two nights a week and it’s been a life-changer because it means that every Monday and Wednesday, I can agree to late-afternoon or evening meetings, including networking meetings. For us that’s been the best way to maximize our childcare dollars.

    • Meg Murry says:

      Not to be rude, but why can’t your husband do daycare pickup at 6 pm from time to time if it is pre-planned? Or does he do all the drop-offs so you can do all the pick-ups? Or has a job that requires late evenings?

      Once I got past the “go home and put kid to bed and then fall over exhausted myself” of the first year or 2, it was a lot easier to schedule 2-3 late evening events a month, and have my husband handle the evenings that night. His job also requires a decent amount of evening meetings and networking, so we have to schedule carefully, but it works out. Lorelai’s suggestion of part-time care for a set evening or two is great also – my mother picked up my kids on Wednesdays, so I knew that that could be the day I could plan to stay late or go to an event without having to arrange something special, and we are working on finding a sitter for one night a week when my husband has a regularly scheduled meeting and I would like to go.

      My main piece of advice in this regard is this: once you get past the b-feeding years, do not make your presence a 100% requirement of the bedtime routine. Change things up and you do it sometimes and have daddy do it sometimes, so that way if you want to go to a meeting it is possible without feeling guilty that you’ve messed up the bedtime routine so now your husband and/or sitter is having a horrific night.

      One other option, if some of your networking contacts live in the same area you do is to go out after kids bedtime. My husband and I are involved in some civic ventures, and we will go out to meet up with people in the League of Women Voters, for instance, for drinks at 8 or 9 pm.

      • MomAnon4This says:

        +1 to your first sentence. REALLY surprised that Kat did not bring up asking your partner to “help” – I mean PARENT – as a potential solution. In my house, in my marriage, in my family, we support each other, and we can all benefit. Obviously there may be extenuating circumstances (solo parenting, travel, etc.) but this should not be an issue that “working mothers” face alone.

        • Kat G says:

          My husband is a 100% partner – bedtime routine at our house is so involved it requires all hands on deck. Very occasionally one of us can handle alone, or I make plans to meet someone at 8:30, so well after bedtime – but by then I’m falling over myself exhausted.

  2. Philanthropy Girl says:

    I also find this exceptionally difficult. I can’t get away to networking events during the day because while it’s still an important part of my job, I’ve had so many extra responsibilities piled up that I just can’t make time for the important amid all the urgent items that pile up on my desk. Dinner time and bedtime fall around that after hours time of 5-6:30, so I’m on mommy duty at that point in the day.

    Basically, if it’s not a breakfast or lunch meeting, I can’t make it fit my schedule. And even then, I have days I can’t.

  3. Lyssa says:

    Ugh, yes. I am so much stingier with my time now. I have the *ability* to go to most things – my husband is almost always available to watch the kiddo, but I just don’t want to. It’s compounded by the fact that shortly after my son was born, I switched to a job that is more demanding, has a longer commute, and doesn’t really require rainmaking the way my previous one did (this allowed him to stay home with the kid – I’m not crazy). So I don’t really have as much of a direct need to go to these things, which I never loved, anyway. I’d so much rather be home with the little guy now.

    I admit that I never even know what to go to, anyway. I’m involved in some bar-related groups, but not enough. I’d love to hear what you guys even do that you consider networking.

  4. I hate this so much. Forced small talk is just so miserable. After working all day is all I want to do is go home to my baby. And the baby misses me too and gives my husband a hard time when I don’t make bedtime. Last time I missed bedtime for an event she stood at the top of the stairs and yelled for me for 20 min. My husband couldn’t distract or appease her. It makes me so sad. Basically I’ve given up hope on making partner because I refuse to do that to my family. I do good work. That has to be enough for now…even though I know it isn’t.

    • Nonny says:

      You wrote my post, sister. Only I haven’t even tried to attend a networking event in the evening. I hated networking before having a baby – now I hate it even more. And if that has a negative impact on partnership, well then, so be it. My time is precious and my first priority now is my little girl.

      I have attended breakfast and lunch things recently, and those are fine. But evenings are sacrosanct.

  5. In private practice — absolutely — it was really difficult. I still have to network at my new job but now that my kids are a little older (I feel like we’re at a sweet spot — 2 and 4, so not old enough to have their own homework and commitments but old enough where I don’t feel like they need me as much) I am okay with doing evening networking events a couple times a month and now that I’m not billing my time I am completely okay with lunches.

  6. My firm puts a huge emphasis on networking and business development, and lately I’ve been forcing myself to schedule at least two networking lunches every month. I prefer one-on-one lunches because I think I get more out of them, but I’ll also go to alumni lunches or bar association talks if something good comes up. But anything after 5 p.m.? Not happening, not sorry.

  7. mascot says:

    I think what changed at first was the ability to do impromptu events, like office happy hours after work. Life got easier once we got to the toddler stage. With a little advance planning, I can get most things done. I try to do meetings and lunches during the work day. Volunteer work and charity events are mostly done in the evenings. My husband and I take a teamwork approach to childcare/work obligations and while our child tends to prefer me, he’s totally fine hanging out with dad. If my husband has to do something for work or something else in the evening, then I’ll handle the home front. I think having options for dependable care (family, sitters) really makes a huge difference. The parents I know with a traveling or long hours spouse usually have a standing sitter appointment so that they can do activities in the evenings.

  8. rakma says:

    I’m not great at networking, don’t enjoy it, but I’m trying to get better. Two things that work for me:

    1)Adding networking onto other meetings: I have a good number of off site meetings; so I’ll try to meet up with someone else at that site for lunch after the meeting, or coffee before–two birds with one trip.

    2)Scheduling as much networking for conferences as I possibly can. I’ll come home exhausted, but will have reconnected with a huge group of people. Plus, everyone’s looking to network at those, so it happens a little more organically, and introductions to new people happen more easily.

  9. What a great and timely post. I used to do tons of networking events – part of my job – and I have scaled back significantly since I’ve returned from work. I try to do only two breakfast events and two after work commitments a month and try to only go to the most critical things. I’m still nursing/pumping which makes it worse as it’s hard to arrange my schedule and commute to not have to pump during a panel or conference and miss either the content or networking portion. My husband can handle bedtime, but I just really hate missing it. It was really hard getting back into the small talk banter but that’s slowly getting better the longer I am back at work.
    My preference for networking is one on one coffees or lunches but even then, I’m becoming much more selective regarding what I agree to since my time is far more limited. In town conferences without travel components are also great, but then again I always skip out before cocktails.

  10. CPA Lady says:

    It is all just too damn much. Everything is too much. I feel like work expectations are getting increasingly more insane alongside parenting expectations getting increasingly more insane. Is there going to be a point where we as a society put our foot down? About the time we all have complete nervous breakdowns?

    In my quarterly meeting with my boss, she suggested joining a board because it would be good for my career. It was all I could do not to laugh. I know I “need” to, but I. Just. Cant. I work every weekend 5 months out of the year, 60-70+ hours a week during that time, barely see my husband or daughter. And this is a completely “normal” way of life.

    In my mind, the expectations came from a time period where people on the partner track could do all this “extra” stuff because they all had stay at home wives. The only time I network is during the work day with lunches and that sort of thing. I have one friend with an older child who has marked off one day of the week to do anything extra. So she’ll join a board, but only if it meets Tuesday night, for example. That may be a path I take once my daughter is older and I’m not so overwhelmed.

    I am also a member of the Jr League, which is my one “fun” thing I do, but I think counts as networking and community service, too. Telling my boss that I did that made her happy, anyway, so I think it counts.

    • mascot says:

      There are some boards that meet quarterly or concentrate their time in one part of the year (one of the local United Way appropriations committees here is only busy for 3 months). You still have to attend some community or fundraiser events, but there may be more events to chose from. If you are used to a Junior League schedule of meetings, volunteer hours, and fundraisers, then a board seat isn’t as overwhelming. League is still a great “one stop shop”‘for leadership, networking, volunteer, and social opportunities.
      I think the networking changes as you grow in your career. You don’t have to do all the things at once.

      • CPA lady says:

        Yeah… that actually sounds way better than what I was picturing. The only board I’ve been on met frequently with lots of useless “lets all freak out and then do nothing” type meetings. It was mostly retirees and non-professionals who didn’t understand why I couldn’t be at every meeting at 5pm or at all.

        I know I’ll give it another try someday, but I’m (clearly) very overwhelmed by everything right now. It’s hard to think about “doing more” when I’m in the depths of tax season.

  11. MsActuary says:

    Ugh, I hated networking events before baby and I hate them even worse now. I also travel a fair bit for work, so many of my “nights off” from bedtime are really because I’m on a plane trying to get home. It’s not appealing to be gone for things I don’t absolutely have to be at.

    I try to focus on events that are directly tied to more business (are existing clients going to be there to help me get in front of new ones) or on social events that are more team building with my clients. There is no time for anything else right now, nor am I willing to give up time with my daughter for things that have little direct impact in the near-term.

    And FWIW – my husband is a very equal partner even though he also works full-time and travels for work as well. We are a carefully orchestrated disaster and don’t see each other much during the week, but my daughter is cared for every morning/evening. If anything, this whole experience has taught us that things constantly change and we have to roll with it. But – I’m very lucky!

    Although it irks me that the men in my practice continue with the after hours happy hours after kids – even those whose wives work! No way I do that (and I’m often chastised for not being part of the team for that!)

  12. I had to make networking events fit between 6:30 am and 6:30 pm. Read books like Never eat alone by Keith Ferrazi or be intentional with a few people instead of broad with many. Have an identity that people can identify you with and go to the events thinking of 10 things you could do to help someone you meet. Always go with a list of the top ten people or businesses you would like to meet if people offer to help with introductions. I also play a “get pumped up song” like jump by van halen before walking in because I get up and nothing gets me down!

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