Maintaining Your Network is More Important Than Saving Money

If you’ve been following my most recent monthly recaps, you’ve probably noticed a couple of trends:

First, I never quite seem to accomplish the previous month’s wellness goals (I swear, August will be different!)

Second, my food & drink budget has been astronomical the past few months. The reason? Networking.

Once I knew that I would soon be leaving my job, I wanted people to know.

If you fail to inform your contacts that you are unemployed, they can’t help you improve your situation.

A recent Fortune article titled The 3 biggest networking mistakes revealed that 42% of senior managers cited “Not asking for help” as the No. 1 networking mistake.

Even after enduring one of the worst economic periods in history, many people are still ashamed about being unemployed. Even worse, they view asking others for help as an inconvenience.

Encouragingly, this article points out that “Not providing help when others need it” was very low on this list of executives’ networking mistakes.

I know that I’ve always gone out of my way to help someone in need when it comes to a sudden job loss, career advice, etc. I’ve never felt even slightly inconvenienced when an acquaintance has randomly reached out to me. In fact, most of the time, I’ve found it flattering.

Why wouldn’t you reach out to the solid network you’ve spend years cultivating?

Once I knew I was leaving my job, I beefed up my social schedule. I was having double the amount of mid-day coffee dates, post-work glasses of whiskey, lunches, and dinners. I went to networking events and stayed past the cutoff for the organization’s open bar tab. I paid for other people’s drinks and treated influencers to lunch. As a result, my food & drink expenses for July topped off at $608.11.

That’s right, six hundred eight dollars and eleven cents. More than double my monthly budget, but the value gained is priceless.

I had nearly half a dozen leads on new jobs before I made the announcement that I was leaving on Friday. It’s part of the reason that I felt confident enough to leave my job without another one lined up.

While I think it’s important to draft a bare bones budget for times of unemployment or leaner earnings, I’ve realized that it’s unrealistic to attempt to live off a $200 food & drink budget this month. This became even more apparent after I hit send on my farewell email and the flood of responses rolled in.

If I want to reconnect with all of these people, which I absolutely do, I’ll need to schedule meetings at least 2-3 times per week. And this doesn’t account for the normal amount of socializing that I do.

In conclusion, the added expense of keeping your network strong is worth every penny (and then some).

Readers: How much time and money do you typically spend on networking? Has it been worth the added expense?

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Discussions — 37 Responses

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach August 12, 2014 on 9:11 am

    I love the risk that you’re taking and hope it pays off for you! I’m in the same boat, but I’m much too scared to part ways with that chunk of money because I don’t know how long the dry spell will last, so I might have to try to get creative on how to network but for free or very low cost. Keep us posted how it goes…it would be an interesting study!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Tonya@Budget and the Beach August 15, 2014 on 10:17 am

      Definitely, Tonya. There are situations where I don’t need to spend money (free shows), but it’s always impossible when you’ve agreed to get coffee or a drink. I’ve been trying to avoid lunches and dinners!

      Reply
  • Wade August 12, 2014 on 9:17 am

    I think you could have a sub-category for “career related” dining out. If/when these connections land you your next dream job, it will be worth it.

    It is hard to budget for these expenses. I wouldn’t worry about it unless it needs to be permanently added to the budget.

    Thanks for the update.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Wade August 15, 2014 on 10:19 am

      Thanks for sharing, Wade. I’ve had a lot of contacts reach out to me since I quit by job, and my calendar is quickly filling up. A normal week would have 1-2 networking events or dates. The next few weeks are going to be packed!

      Reply
  • Mrs. Frugalwoods August 12, 2014 on 9:50 am

    You make a really good point here. And, you’re so right about feeling flattered when others ask for help–I always do and it’s a great reminder to not be shy about working those contacts. We’re not in networking mode right now, but with socializing, we almost always invite friends over to our house. It’s so much cheaper for us to cook for them than pay to eat & drink out. But, that doesn’t work as well with networking I know 🙂

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Mrs. Frugalwoods August 15, 2014 on 10:24 am

      I’ve invited a few closer contacts over to the porch for some homemade cold brew coffee or whiskey. It’s hard to get some people over to East Nashville, though 🙁

      Reply
  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde August 12, 2014 on 10:06 am

    I have built my business solely on networking and I think it is the most valuable key for long term career success. You have to stay in front of as many people as possible. You honestly never know where the break will come from. Pretty much all of my business marketing is nothing but networking and it always pays off.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Shannon @ Financially Blonde August 15, 2014 on 10:25 am

      Amazing, Shannon. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

      Reply
  • DC @ Young Adult Money August 12, 2014 on 1:19 pm

    I don’t spend that much on networking, but I also don’t network as much as I should. I probably average one happy hour a month. I guess keeping up with friends and acquaintances counts too, so I’d throw that into my “networking expense” calculation as well.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash DC @ Young Adult Money August 15, 2014 on 10:26 am

      I probably need to add a “networking expense” line in my budget, huh? Happy hours are great because you can see a lot of people at once! 🙂

      Reply
  • Lauren August 12, 2014 on 1:40 pm

    Good old fashioned networking seems be to key in finding jobs today. If you land something great as a result, it’s definitely well worth it!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Lauren August 15, 2014 on 10:27 am

      Networking is everything in the entertainment business. It’s hard to land a gig any other way.

      Reply
  • Tre August 12, 2014 on 2:01 pm

    I’m horrible at networking, but I realize it so important. That’s how I found my last two jobs! We moved to an new state last year and I’ve spent all my time working at home. I really need to get out more and network.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Tre August 15, 2014 on 10:29 am

      Working from home can be amazing, but I need a face-to-face human interaction on a daily basis. I’ve always worked near downtown, so most of my contacts are close and it’s easy to grab a quick drink right after work.

      Reply
  • Sam @ Frugaling.org August 12, 2014 on 2:10 pm

    Networking can be a frighteningly expensive task. I’m glad that you took a look at what it costs you on a regular basis. I’d call it something else for me: making, keeping, and developing friendships. I don’t know that my line of work requires the same level of networking, but I love being able to spend time with the people I care about. That can sometimes cost money (e.g., eating out, getting drinks, “having fun”). But despite the costs (within reason), it’s always been an important part for me.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Sam @ Frugaling.org August 15, 2014 on 10:31 am

      Great point, Sam. Maintaining friendships can be extremely expensive! Fortunately, most of my friends in Nashville are fairly frugal, so we all try to find inexpensive things to do 🙂

      Reply
  • Melissa August 12, 2014 on 9:12 pm

    Wow, this is inspirational!! It’s really important to keep your network alive – everyone says it, but it’s different when you are finally are unemployed, or need some help, and have few people to turn to. I probably don’t spend as much money as I should on networking – I’m very introverted, but you’re right – I need to keep up my networks. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Melissa August 15, 2014 on 10:32 am

      Thanks for the kind words, Melissa. Sometimes I have a tough time getting out, but I always have fun once I’m there. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not going to gain anything from laying on the couch watching Netflix 😉

      Reply
  • E.M. August 12, 2014 on 9:45 pm

    This is a great reminder of how valuable networking is. I’ve honestly been so horrible at networking, but I’m not really in any “established” career path yet, so I’ve never really had any networking events to go to. I should really meet people in our new city, though. And thanks for debunking the “inconvenience” part. I’m always so afraid to contact people, when I know if the roles were reversed, I’d be glad to help.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash E.M. August 15, 2014 on 10:33 am

      Thanks for sharing, E.M. I’ve met some really cool people from having common interests. Meetup groups have always been of interest to me. It’s amazing how many interesting people are out there and trying to connect!

      Reply
  • Michelle August 12, 2014 on 10:02 pm

    I hadn’t really considered how expensive networking can be. I’m a lightweight now a days and I love rocking the happy hour. It’s too bad you can’t go hiking with your contacts. I am very excited for you and can’t wait to hear about your adventures.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Michelle August 15, 2014 on 10:34 am

      Great point, Michelle! I should try to organize some free outdoor networking events. A hike with my contacts would be amazing!

      Reply
  • Gretchen August 13, 2014 on 7:53 am

    That’s an awesome way of looking at it! I struggle with out food budget too, but unfortunately it’s not because of networking…LOL. Seriously though, it’s better to spend a bit of money now on food and drink that eventually lands you a job then to be out of work for an extended period of time!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Gretchen August 15, 2014 on 10:35 am

      Haha, believe me, it’s not always from networking! Now that I’m unemployed, I’ve pretty much cut out dining out, though. Hopefully that continues once the income starts rolling back in.

      Reply
  • Holly@ClubThrifty August 13, 2014 on 7:54 am

    It sounds like you aren’t blowing money unnecessarily, but investing in your future career instead. Sometimes it takes money to make money! =)

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Holly@ClubThrifty August 15, 2014 on 10:36 am

      Absolutely, Holly! I’ve never regretted having a glass of whisky with a great contact.

      Reply
  • No More Waffles August 13, 2014 on 7:58 am

    Nailed it! Networking is the single best way to find new job opportunities!

    After graduating I took a couple of weeks to meet up with all my acquaintances, just to make sure they all knew I was looking for work. I spent an enormous amount of money because I was out almost every night, but it payed off in the end.

    Even now I try to meet up regularly to maintain and expand my network. You’ll never know which opportunity you’ll run into.

    Don’t worry too much about the food budget; it’s an investment rather than an expense!

    Reply
    • Addison Cash No More Waffles August 15, 2014 on 10:37 am

      Thanks for commenting, No More Waffles! Loving your logo, by the way. It’s unbelievably important to let people know you’re looking for work.

      Reply
  • Ryan @ Impersonal Finance August 13, 2014 on 11:52 am

    It’s more about who you know than what you know. At a lot of networking events, you can get by with just a drink or so, and not even have to spend too much out of pocket. But you’re totally right Addison, it is invaluable to have connections that can help during any unemployment or underemployment period. Great post.

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Ryan @ Impersonal Finance August 15, 2014 on 10:38 am

      Thanks for commenting, Ryan. Networking events are awesome, but I love cup of coffee or a glass of wine after work. Having a one-on-one conversation with a good contact is priceless.

      Reply
  • Jay @ ThinkingWealthy.com August 13, 2014 on 5:14 pm

    I get the need for an eye-catching headline but honestly, saving is far more important than maintaining your network. If things start getting rocky then LinkedIn is always ready for you. My generation (I’m 24) go years without talking after school, but if I email someone on LinkedIn, they’ve always responded. Just my two cents.

    Jay

    Reply
    • Addison Cash Jay @ ThinkingWealthy.com August 15, 2014 on 10:40 am

      Thanks for commenting, Jay. I wish I could rely solely on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, the entertainment industry doesn’t work like that. Nothing beats face-to-face interaction and seeing people over drinks is how the majority of business gets done.

      Reply
  • NZ Muse August 13, 2014 on 9:50 pm

    YES! I have a small budget I set aside – I usually go out for hot chocolate with colleagues once a week and do semi regular lunches with them and also with professional contacts. I think it’s really important – so much so I’ll even go to a restaurant I hate if it’s a group lunch (like I recently did, and learned tons about how my organisation handles performance reviews and raises over terrible Mexican food).

    Reply
    • Addison Cash NZ Muse August 15, 2014 on 10:41 am

      Haha, awesome! I’m definitely going to make a point to hang out with my new co-workers a lot more often. I’ll have to avoid getting sucked into the gossip, though 😉

      Reply
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