NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The summer offers enormous potential to network and to build professional relationships.
The weather is generally kinder, and more people are inclined to be out and about. People tend to be happier, and happy people tend to be available and generous with their time.
The goal in networking is to establish strategic career-focused relationships. A good networker builds a community of like-minded and supportive advocates. It is an insurance policy in a world where change is a defining theme for careers and work. You never know when you have outlived your welcome where you work or, alternatively, when you will begin to feel restless and want to make a change. Having a strong network will help you take your next step.
It's obvious, but it bears repeating: You should be strategic and a little self-serving in reaching out to people. That is precisely why you should plan your summers with intention and purpose. Always ask yourself the following question: Will this activity have the potential to be of benefit to me? If the answer is yes, then you'd better have a snappy sound bite to explain who and what you are when meeting new and potentially valuable people.
Whether you are stuck at work or plan to travel this summer, why not make the most of the unique career benefits the season typically offers? It's even better if you can combine business with pleasure.
So, when the thermostat rises, here are 10 tips on how to heat up your networking:
1. Take a vacation.
People tend to be less inhibited and more relaxed when they're away from home. Vacations also offer distance, forcing people to focus on activities other than work. It is a fact that you will meet new people -- so make sure you are prepared to talk about yourself professionally but without the obvious sales pitch.
2. Take a "workation."
Organize a happy hour or join the company softball league. Participating in company-sponsored events is a great way to heighten your visibility in the company and to have some fun, too. Even if you don't drink or play, it's still an opportunity to bond with your colleagues and meet others outside your department. Two left feet? You can always cheerlead for the team.
3. Make the most of your weekend house share.
For those of you fortunate enough to have a shared weekend getaway, choose your roommates based on mutual professional interests. For many Wall Street clients, the beach house they shared early in their careers was the place where they established their longest and best professional relationships.
4. Hail to thee our alma mater.
Lots of universities schedule outdoorsy events in the summer for alumni. These can be terrific opportunities for meeting a preselected group of people with some common history and reference points.
5. Don't forget your kid's school.
School events are a gold mine for meeting and greeting -- and for commiserating with other parents over having to be there. The annual father/daughter camping trip? A client just returned from a weekend at a nature center that he was not eager to visit. But he immediately bonded with other dads who felt the same way, several of whom work in the same industry.
6. Don't ignore invitations.
Always say yes to an invitation. There are typically more of them in the summer. Barbecues, ball games and fundraisers all offer infinite possibilities to chat up friends, family and new acquaintances.
7. Join a team.
Trade the company uniform for your workout gear. Every city and lots of organizations sponsor outdoor leagues for sports such as basketball and soccer. Or consider a running, sailing or rowing club. All are great ways to meet other professionals.
8. Remember that membership has its privileges.
Urban clubs such as Soho House in New York or Jonathan Club in L.A. are like country clubs in the city with pools, restaurants, and spas. Members are screened, and the posh setting is a magnet for ambitious people who are networking-minded.
9. Do good.
Volunteer for a community-based activity. It takes a village to build a house or to clean a park -- and the people you meet are more likely to be generous in sharing their insights and resources.
10. Work on professional development.
One client wraps study, professional development and networking into a summer experience. She always signs up for at least one or two conferences each summer in places where she is likely to meet colleagues from all over the world. Another volunteers to be a grader for the CFA Institute, which houses its students on campus at the University of Virginia every summer. He gets to meet CFAs like himself from across the country and has expanded his network 10-fold through the experience.