Career Advice | If you think you’re networking too much, analyze the results.
Q: It seems like a lot of people don’t like networking, but I have the opposite problem; I really enjoy it and think I spend too much time on it. Do you have suggestions for achieving a balance? —Mona, 44, marketing manager
A: Manage your activities so that you’re intentional about how you spend your time.
It’s really easy to spend too much time on the fun parts of our jobs while giving short shrift to the parts we like the least. In your case, networking activities can really eat up a lot of time, so it will be important to select judiciously.
Start by analyzing your job. Draw a circle, making a pie chart that shows the key five or six aspects of your job. It may include planning, writing, managing people, analysis and, of course, networking. Allocate the appropriate amount of time you should be spending on each aspect to succeed in your position. Now think about what you actually do and determine how big the gaps are.
Take a look at your schedule over the past month or two, focusing on your networking. Which activities were most fruitful and which seem less valuable? Focus on the business value. Prioritize the activities that you want to maintain using this rough “return on investment” approach. Remember, though, that some of the benefits will be less tangible, so don’t be too quick to drop them.
Also consider the reasons you’re so active, looking closely at ways that your job addresses your more social needs — or fails to. If you’re an outgoing person in a back office role, excess networking is a logical outcome. In this case, explore ways to create more team dynamics that meet your personal needs while also getting your core job done.
Give a fresh look to how you do aspects of your position that you feel you’ve neglected. Can you find fresh approaches that get a better outcome or help you be more engaged? Worst case, even if you aren’t enthusiastic about them, if you can get more effective at them you may be able to create the needed balance.
To the extent possible, also consider additional delegation. Tasks you don’t like may be in someone else’s sweet spot, and even be a development opportunity. Just be careful not to become the person who is shoving the grunt work off on everyone else.
Have a look at your broader life, especially if you attend a lot of professional events outside of working hours. If it’s affecting your family life, that’s an area for serious attention. Likewise, notice if you’re cutting short time with other friends or activities for less emotionally grounding relationships.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with building robust professional relationships. In fact, many find it to be among the most rewarding part of their work lives, and it also can open up great new opportunities. Just be sure that you’re doing this in an intentional way so it supports your career.
Submit questions to Liz Reyer at email@example.com.