Tips For Networking Over Lunch

The majority of professionals miss out on an opportunity to get away from their keyboards and connect by eating lunch at their desks. Get ahead by bucking the trend and dedicating time for networking.

Professional colleagues networking over lunch

More than 6 in 10 office workers eat lunch at their desk, catching up on more email or trying to get ahead on tasks. In the short term, this may make you feel more productive. But in the long term, isolating yourself at your desk for too long narrows your social circle and limits your networking. Stepping away from your computer on a regular basis for lunch is one way to connect with others who can expand the possibilities of your career. For National Make Lunch Count Day on April 13th, here are tips to get away from keyboard crumbs. 
Lunch doesn’t have to be lunch 
A break for lunch doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to eating. You can also connect with colleagues during a midday break with other activities, such as a walk around your building, a workout or a book club. 
Brown bag it 
One of the downsides of networking over lunch is the costs can add up over time. But you can save money by packing your own lunch and meeting at a park or break room. This method also has the benefit of being on your time table. You don’t have to wait to get seated or wait for the check. Bring your own lunch and you can control how long you want to meet. 
Research ahead of time 
Plan ahead for what you want to talk about over lunch, and what you want to get out of it. You don’t want to sound scripted and stilted, but you also don’t want to waste the other person’s time by showing up with no ideas or relevant topics to discuss. Instead, be genuinely interested in the other person. Look up the social media of who you are meeting ahead of time -- even if you already know them well -- so you can ask questions about their latest work or maybe family trip. It’s good to let the conversation topics flow, but you should come with some discussion ideas in mind to get things started. 
Focus on the experience 
Sometimes, lunch can feel forced or awkward if it’s set up solely for the purpose of networking. You can mitigate these feelings by focusing on the experience, rather than simply the meeting itself. Set up a recurring monthly meeting in your office to explore new restaurants in town, and share new venue suggestions with each other. This way, your networking meetings feel less transactional, and more like a natural sharing of experiences. 
Turn off the phone 
The point of leaving your desk behind is to look up, connect and think of the big picture. Don’t ruin it by checking in too much on your phone during lunch. If you are truly too busy or an emergency comes up, reschedule when you have more time rather than shortchanging yourself with a half-hearted lunch meeting. 
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