Home IT management Networking Post-Baby – 5 Steps To Rebuilding Career Momentum After Maternity Leave

Networking Post-Baby – 5 Steps To Rebuilding Career Momentum After Maternity Leave

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Networking Post-Baby – 5 Steps To Rebuilding Career Momentum After Maternity Leave

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What advice do you have regarding moms coming back to work/networking post baby? – Ange, Event Planning and Sales

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I have written previously about how to start networking if you haven’t focused on it in a while, but not specifically about when the lack of focus has been because of a maternity leave. On one hand, Ange’s question is about any networking reboot after time away. On the other hand, networking post-baby poses specific constraints. The good news is that there are lots of ways to nurture your network, so there will be something that fits your new post-baby routine. Here are five steps to take when rebuilding career momentum after maternity leave specifically:

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1 – Clarify why you’re networking (i.e., your immediate v. longer-term career goals)

Networking enhances career prospects in so many ways – helping you advance when you network with senior leaders and decision-makers, helping you land a job when you connect to recruiters and hiring managers, helping you build your brand as more people know you. Clarifying your goals for networking and the timeline for these goals is the most important first step because it dictates what connections to nurture and how you pace yourself.

For example, if promotions are decided soon, then your networking deadline with senior leaders specifically moves up. You’ve been away and your visibility with everyone has de facto decreased, so you need to prioritize getting in front of key decision-makers first so you don’t miss the promotion cycle window. If your first goal is to build back your sales pipeline, then external leads and connections will be your immediate priority.

2 — Outline your constraints and preferences

Once you have a sense of which connections to nurture and a general timeline, you can look at your schedule, including any constraints. Your baby’s sleeping, feeding and activity schedule are examples of constraints you may want to build your networking around. If you have a baby who sleeps early, evening networking events might be feasible. If you have more help in the morning than evening, you might schedule breakfast meetings instead.

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Don’t forget to consider your own preferences when selecting your networking activities and schedule. If you don’t like evening events or breakfast meetings, then you won’t maintain that schedule or present your best self, even if it’s convenient for the family schedule. In that case, you’ll want to weigh how much you can adapt your approach, or whether you’ll pursue another workaround.

3 — Get help – at home and at work

Getting additional resources to help you is an example of a workaround. Your baby isn’t an early sleeper, but you like evening events and/or your target networking connections are evening people, so you hire an evening sitter or family help. (Here are tips for dual-career couples to share the load.)

You can also ask for help at work – e.g., negotiating for a later start to the day so you can get your baby time in the morning or start your babysitting clock at a later time. If travel would be difficult to schedule right now, ask for local clients or projects. There might be someone on your team who would prefer to travel, and you can share portfolios, taking the clients and projects that each of you prefer.

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4 — Start wherever you are

Live networking activities – e.g., evening events, breakfast meetings – are just one way of nurturing connections. Email, phone calls, video calls, and social media are also good options, given that everyone is pressed for time these days. As you clarify your goals, outline your constraints and look into getting help as needed, you can rekindle some connections right away by posting an update on LinkedIn, sending some Checking In emails or setting up a phone or Zoom with someone you know you will want a longer catch-up.

Starting right away will help you build momentum and prevent analysis paralysis. You also will likely get some fun, informative responses that will encourage you to keep networking. Remember that you’re just saying Hello – you’re not rehashing your life story – so reconnecting can take just a few minutes. Aim for rekindling one or two connections each day, or several times a week. Stack this habit with something you’re already going to do. For example, when you stroll your baby in the park, you will email a colleague. Or when you put baby to bed for the night, you’ll do one more reconnection before jumping into work.

5 — Look for ways to multiply a single effort

One-to-one networking, whether live or virtual, is great, but not the only way to connect. When you post on social media, that’s connecting one-to-many, as a single post can reach multiple people. If you go to an evening event, say your professional association meeting, and you give a talk or facilitate a panel or even volunteer to register other attendees or answer questions about the association, these roles multiply your effort because you’re not just attending, but also playing a role that puts you front-of-mind. If your company has employee resource groups (or affinity groups), these are great structures to grow your network across functions and levels. Taking a committee role, or starting a new group (e.g., for new moms) if there isn’t one already, is another way to multiply effort by not just participating, but amplifying your visibility.

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Networking is just one way to build career momentum

Having a supportive network is important to your career, but it’s not the only factor. If your schedule or energy level or other constraint makes networking too heavy a lift right now, set a reminder in your schedule to revisit next month or next quarter. Instead, focus on catching up on industry news and trends since you’ve been gone. Review the internal memos and other announcements you may have missed – this volatile economy means you need to stay on top of how your employer is doing! Check your benefits, since you now have an expanded family, and you may need to make new selections or update your paperwork. A strong financial foundation contributes to a strong career foundation.

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