Choose to be in the room. Is networking optional or obligatory? via LinkedIn on 3-21-14

For individuals such as myself who live over 40 miles from the nearest metropolitan area we calculate everything based on how long it will take us to get in and out of town. I often tell people that I operate around the traffic bubble of Los Angeles. My assistant Kahlil knows the rule of only scheduling meetings between 10am and 2pm so I can use the 8am window to commute into the city and ensure I am home by 5pm to pick up my oldest daughter from track practice.

Does this sound familiar? What I began to notice was that I had a life within the metro and a life in my own community of Moreno Valley. The subtle opportunities to attend a mixer or happy hour became a battle. I found myself conflicted having to decide between networking versus the wear and tear from an extended commute.

However, I quickly learned that these subtle opportunities shouldn’t be overlooked. When you have the opportunity to reap the benefits of spontaneous conversation, an opportunity critical to your continued development as an individual—it must be prioritized.

The benefits of being able to expand your network organically away from the office are tremendous. People want to work with those they enjoy being around. People want to recommend those they wouldn’t mind having a bacon-wrapped hot dog, or semi warm cup of coffee with. Frankly, you learn a lot about a person outside of the confines of an office setting as this is where lasting relationships are created. If you only make it a priority to be in the room when it’s required then it doesn’t count.

That being said, I made the commitment long ago to “be in the room.” When the opportunity presents itself to be exposed to personal, professional, and spiritual growth “I choose to be in the room.” Many networking experts will tell you to have an agenda when you get to a networking event, but I’ve found that an agenda doesn’t make you genuine. If you can simply start by looking at your calendar and make a goal to be at one more church service, one more basketball game for your son, one more happy hour with your office, and one more family meal—your net will work!

What are some of the rooms you’ve chosen to be in this year? What are some of the ways you’ve managed your professional development while having to manage a long commute? I’d love to hear your perspectives. Who knows, perhaps there’s a cup of coffee in it for you!

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