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Lunches are an important part of career growth. On the conservative side, this year you will have 225 lunches during work hours. In five years, you will have well over a thousand.
At 30 to 90 minutes per lunch, you are looking at a significant investment of time. And if you use it to communicate with colleagues, it can be a critically important window of opportunity for your career.
With the right partners, what can you do with 30 to 90 minutes to improve your career?
Consider the next three weeks. Which of the bullet points above do you want to tackle? Convert each one into a question to help you identify the best person to meet with for lunch. Here are examples of questions you might want to consider when deciding whom to take to lunch:
Don't put your best creative energy into deciding what to eat. Before a business lunch, invest some time in producing three to four questions for your colleague based on your purpose for the lunch. For example, if your purpose is better to understand your customers and prospects, schedule a lunch with a person who deals directly with them on a regular basis. Questions for such a person might include:
Come to the table with a list of four to five questions for each lunch you've scheduled, but be cognizant of the flow of conversation as well. Be flexible about asking questions you didn't prepare, based on your exchange.
By the time you get to a restaurant and order food, you may only have 15 to 30 minutes to have a meaningful conversation. But that's plenty of time to begin to build a relationship. If you truly listen while the other person is talking and demonstrate you value her thoughts, you can build trust and lay the foundation for a long-term relationship.
After the lunch is over, connect right away with your lunch buddy by sending a thank-you note recapping what you learned. Keep in touch so you can set up another lunch together over the next 60 days. In the meantime, stay alert for relevant articles and links to forward to your lunch partner. It's a quick way of acknowledging your lunch conversation and that you were thinking about your colleague. As time moves on, these individuals can guide you into key committees and onto important projects.
Now that you have the tactics for successful lunches, start to map out your business-lunch calendar. You can use this template to see what the next month can look like.
Week of: __________________
Date Purpose of lunch Best person to meet with Business-lunch questions
A great lunch can be the beginning of a tremendous professional relationship. Be sure to nourish your career as well as your body at lunchtime.