Manager - Human Resources, Robert Walters Hong Kong
Is networking a necessity or work-life nightmare?
I’ve reached a certain level in my current role where I’m being regularly called upon to attend outside events as a representative of my company. At first I was happy to, but now I’m being asked to go to more and more functions and it’s eating up a considerable chunk of my spare time. I’m beginning to think my company is taking advantage of me, but at the same time I’m admittedly building up a better network. Should I just go with it or is there a point where I should draw a line?
Business socialising is part of work life for most professionals nowadays. It could be an external corporate event where you meet with your potential business partners in the hope of winning new contracts, or it could be an internal networking event giving you a chance to mingle with your colleagues or business leaders outside work - which helps raise your profile within the organisation.
Yet, whether it’s internal or external, these networking events can be quite mentally and physically draining. So to answer your question, in order to avoid “over-socialising” outside work, you need to learn to qualify the events you go to and be able to evaluate the return on investment each of them can generate.
I am not saying that you need to be all calculative about this, but we have all had experiences where you meet the same group of people in every social event. A lot of C-level executives have their secretaries prioritising these things for them but if you don’t have one, you need to do it yourself so that it doesn’t eat up your personal time.
Generally speaking, if it’s an event for you to meet new contacts, go for it; but if it’s a regular social gathering socialising with old networks, assign someone to go for you. A lot of event organisers have their guest lists ready in advance and you should do some homework before investing your time.
Besides, delegation is also part of a management job, so consider tasking your “second in command” to go to the next networking event with you and introduce them to everyone. That way, they can represent you at the following function and would also feel a sense of involvement and development in their role.
Open communication with your boss is needed at all times. You should speak up if they are making you attend excessive and unnecessary social events. Trust me, they mean well but simply thinking one-sidedly that it’s for your own good.
Learn to express your frustrations in a humble yet strategic manner. Ask your boss for tips on achieving “work-life balance” and share your worry about how it could affect the quality of your work. If your boss is reasonable, your career development won’t be jeopardised. However, if you don’t voice out and your performance gradually becomes affected due to annoyance and fatigue, you won’t get anywhere, either in terms of a promotion or career development.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Is networking a necessity or work-life nightmare?