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Friday, July 22, 2011

Social Overload

4 ways to avoid 'networking fatigue' - Ask Annie - Fortune Management: management.fortune.cnn.com/2011/07/22/4-ways-to-av...tigue

1. Set a time limit. "In essence, this is a time management issue like any other, whether it's how much time you're able to spend coaching your child's soccer team or how many hours per week you want to put into volunteer work," he notes. "The answer could be zero, or 10, or whatever works for you. But decide in advance what you're willing to commit to, and then stick to that."

2. Devote the most time and energy to the conversations you enjoy most. To be worth doing at all, networking should be a two-way street. "If you're also getting something out of helping others, it will keep you from burning out," Cenedella says. "One aspect of this is, do you enjoy chatting with 10 people for 10 minutes each, or would you rather have fewer, more in-depth discussions? Knowing your own style will help determine your strategy."

An example from his own experience: As the founder of a successful company, Cenedella says he hears from lots of entrepreneurs looking to pick his brain. To separate the truly serious inquiries from the less so, he usually recommends a book like Founders at Work by venture capitalist Jessica Livingston.

"If someone is willing to read that and get back to me, so we start our discussion on the same page so to speak, then we can have a meaningful exchange of ideas," Cenedella says. "I've found I learn a lot from them."

3. Foster a discussion that's independent of you. Here's one way the Internet can come in handy. "Many times people looking for advice share each others' questions and concerns," Cenedella observes. "If you set up a blog or a discussion group on a career site or an online social network, you usually find that people will address helpful comments to each other. You can and should weigh in, of course, but you don't need to be there all the time."

4. Don't angst over it. Although your desire to help people is laudable, if you find that you just can't respond to all requests within the time limit you've set for yourself, "don't feel guilty," Cenedella advises. "Everyone knows you're incredibly busy. It's why they want your recommendation or your advice in the first place."

For requests you need to turn down for whatever reason, "create a stock response you can email that says something like, 'Sorry, but due to time pressures, I can't honor requests for...,'" he suggests. "There are only so many hours in the day. No one's going to punish you for that."

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