Lunch. For most of us, it’s the part of the workday that we look forward to most. It’s a chance to take your eyes off that computer screen, sprint away from your desk, and spend some precious time kicking back and powering through a burrito. In the frenzy of a normal workday, your lunch break is your respite from the office—your chance to recharge and prepare to tackle the afternoon.
But, what if I told you that lunch could be used for a lot more than noshing on a sub sandwich and scrolling through your Facebook feed? In fact, what if you could leverage your lunch break to actually boost your professional reputation—and your career in the process?
I know what you’re thinking, “Lunch is the one time when I don’t have to worry about all of that! Let me just chow down on my day-old lasagna in peace, please.” And, I can’t blame you there. However, hear me out. Lunch can be a great opportunity for you to network—whether it’s with completely new people or your very own co-workers.
Still not convinced? Here’s why lunch is the perfect chance to expand your web of professional contacts.
1. You Can Interact With Your Colleagues in a Social Setting
Save for the occasional happy hour, you don’t get out of the office with your co-workers that frequently. You know how John takes his coffee in the morning, and you figure Susan must own a St. Bernard—it’s her desktop background after all. But, aside from that? Well, you’re not too familiar with one another.
If you’re planning on heading out of the office to grab a bite to eat, take the initiative to invite one (or even a few!) of your colleagues out with you. It’s a great chance to bond and get to know each other a little better. And, stronger workplace relationships? Well, they’re never a bad thing.
It’s easy to think it’s impossible to network with your colleagues—of course, you already know them. But, trust us. At its most basic form, networking is really just a conversation. So, networking with your own co-workers is definitely a thing—and you should do it!
2. You Can Invite Others Out for a Low-Pressure Meeting
That person in your industry that you really admire. The department head from that company where you’ve been trying to get your foot in the door. That graphic designer that you’re really hoping is willing to help you out with something—pro bono.
They’re all people you want to sit down and chat with. But, you’re just not sure how to go about it. Well, invite them out for lunch! You’ll get to connect in a completely low-pressure environment, with delicious food to boot! It’s way more comfortable and friendly setting than being seated at an endless conference room table in a stuffy office.
Even better? Sitting down for lunch together guarantees a decent amount of time for you both to chat, as it’s a little more involved than just a simple stop for coffee. Plus, if you’re footing the bill, pretty much anybody will be willing to meet up with you.
3. You Can Always Meet New People
So, you’re going to white-knuckle your lunch breaks and insist on going out alone in order to take some time to decompress and relax. That’s totally fine! However, you can still make an effort to strike up friendly conversations with people.
That guy behind you in line that you bonded with over your shared love for pepperjack cheese? Turns out you have a few professional acquaintances in common. You swap business cards in order to keep in touch down the line. Just think—that’s a connection you would’ve completely missed out on had you been too dead set on keeping your eyes glued to your phone and ignoring everyone around you.
Not wanting to use your lunch break time to continue professional conversations with others is completely understandable. But, don’t take that as your free pass to avoid any and all interaction. Being friendly and sociable always pays off.
4. You Can Use Your Time Wisely
You’re still not buying the whole “lunch for networking” concept. You just want to sit at your favorite corner table and enjoy your 45 minutes of uninterrupted sandwich time. Hey, do your thing.
But, remember, you can use your lunch break for a lot more than just being antisocial. If you don’t feel like talking to anyone, you’re always free to use that time to polish up your LinkedIn profile. It’s networking, without having to be so social and aggressive. Plus, if you get it out of the way during your workday, it means you won’t have to worry about it when you get home and are more than ready to relax. It’s a win-win!
If you’re one of those people who typically reserves the lunch break as sacred time when you can do whatever you please, it’s probably tough to switch your perspective about your favorite hour of the day. However, nobody’s insisting that you leverage your lunch break every single day of the week!
Instead, challenge yourself to use your lunch for networking just one day each week. That way, you’re still making effective use of that time—without inching closer and closer to total burnout.