Use Vacation Time to Broaden Your Professional Network

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Here's a quick exercise that will enhance your summer vacation. Write down the names of your top 10 professional contacts. Now evaluate the diversity of your group by focusing on a few basics like job, industry and experience. Assess as well by age, gender and ethnicity.

What do you see? Is there more commonality or do differences prevail?

Many of us surround ourselves with folks like us. As best selling author Kabir Sehgal recalls in Harvard Business Review, "When I worked on Wall Street, my professional circle was initially limited to other folks in the financial services sector: bankers, traders, analysts, economists. Taken together, all of us establish a “consensus” view on the markets. And most of my asset manager clients were looking for something different...I took this as marching orders to tap my rolodex for people who could provide my clients a differentiated perspective."

One thing you can do to broaden your network is to take advantage of the new surroundings that your summer vacation offers. Scout out a gathering place where casual conversations are happening--and join in. A local coffee shop is fertile ground. So is the pool bar. Even a front porch will do. During past family vacations at Cuttyhunk Island in Massachusetts, I discovered that rocking chairs on the front porch of the Cuttyhunk Fishing Club (the B&B where we stayed—see accompanying photo with this blog) were the perfect catalyst for conversations that spawned some wonderful friendships and great connections.

Challenge yourself to meet at least one new professional contact every day that you're away. Be sure to exchange phone and email information. Once back on the job, send each a brief note of appreciation or a reminder of a conversation highlight. Use follow-up to stay memorable and to keep the connection active rather than a forgotten moment.

 

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