Networking is a key part of building your social capital. But, sometimes we can get too much of a good thing. Here are three warning signs that you might be networking too much, plus effective strategies that can get you back on a balanced path.
1. Your email introductions are unsuccessful, weak or time consuming.
Everyone understands that connecting is a fundamental activity in networking, and we all love to be the connecting party. When there is a natural fit, then an introductory set of emails might be best. I always recommend the double-opt-in introduction in order to get permission and buy-in from both parties and once you have that permission, often the email almost composes itself.
But, if you are sitting at your computer and struggling, this could be a sign that you are overnetworking. It’s important to remember that the relationships you make in networking are only the first step. What truly matters is the social capital you build within those relationships. When you’re grasping for connections between individuals, it means one of two things:
- You don’t know them well enough.
- You can’t see a concrete strategy for how you can add value to their lives.
The first reason is dealt with easily enough: Be more curious and genuine in your networking and less transactional. If you’re getting to know people for who they are rather than just what they do, you have more strands with which to tie together your connection. As you get to know people, you can relax and simply get to know them, rather than always pushing for what they could do for you.
The second reason goes a bit deeper, and it ties into the idea of networking as a long-term strategy. Building relationships takes time, and you have to give people time to trust you. As that trust grows, you’ll learn more and you’ll be able to see opportunities to add value to their lives (and where they can offer something to others).
In each of the relationships you are building, challenge yourself to ask more “why” questions of people. The more you can learn and understand the motivations of these people in your network, the easier it will be to pair them with those of similar mindsets or desires.
2. You are not spending enough time on your own projects.
Building a business or creating a product can be hard and time-consuming. By comparison, going to a networking event can be easier: show up, meet some new people, have some time away from work.
If you’re not spending enough time on your own projects, then it’s okay to reduce the amount of time you spend networking. You’ll lose out on quantity, but the quality of your networking will improve when you have more to bring to your interactions.
You really don’t want to go to another networking event.
Of course, the simplest indicator is the most obvious: You just can’t stand the idea of going to another networking event. I’ve been there. If you’re in this space right now, I recommend one of two options:
- Stop cold turkey. When you stop going to networking events, you’ll find out who is truly interested in you. They’ll email and ask, “Hey, missed you at the mixer last week, how have you been?” or “Haven’t seen you for a couple weeks, are you okay?” You can, of course, reach out to these people, but the difference is that you’re no longer seeking out those events. Instead, you’re choosing who you want to interact with.
- Drastically reduce your networking. This will allow you to go through the exercise of pruning the least helpful networking activities. Use the 80/20 rule to spend your time at the most valuable ones. This option also keeps you in circulation while you are working on your projects.
Networking is an art and a science. It’s driven by curiosity, generosity and tenacity. But, above all, it must be strategic. Recognize the warning signs that you might be overnetworking and correct your course. Everyone in your network will thank you for it.