Stealing the Keith Ferazzi's book title and principle by the same name, Never Eat Alone is a great principle for career growth (in addition to personal growth).
Early in my career I took inter-office relationships for granted, eating lunch at my desk during those busy dot com days in South-of-Market San Francisco. However, one of my peers always ate lunch with others, and was inviting groups of people to lunch. I had two or three key relationships and she had 20. The relationships she built mattered made a difference in her ability to get things done with others. The better relationships you have inside your organization, the more you can get done…and the more people will talk about you (see "Sound bytes" tip) or defend you.
In addition to inter-office relationships, consider eating with people outside your work. Get new perspectives. Network with people in your industry, and in your city. Your career, whether inside your company or out, is highly dependent on who you know and who you GET to know. Lunch, even if you pay, is worth the investment.
I’ve had lunches with former colleagues who wanted to network outside their company. However, very few of them take action on this idea. They get stuck networking within their own company. Yet when they’re ready to move to the next game, they realize they don’t know anyone. Experts believe only 10-20% of jobs filled are ever publicized. Most jobs are placed from relationships. Over half the people hired into our company were because someone knew someone.
Here are suggested steps to networking outside your company and off of your current board game:
Step 1: Determine your passion and strengths, and where you want to go.
Step 2: Determine who you should GET to know that surround where you want to go.
Step 3: Prioritize and schedule your lunch hours with these people.
Sounds simple, but most things that work, but never done, are simple.