Overdosing on Socialization

The theme this week is networking and jobs – there has been discussion on the people above us who helpfriends who help,  and the fact that sometimes knowing people doesn’t directly help at all. We’ve discussed how networking is a bunch of meaningless jargon, it’s really just common sense used to help you be successful (preach it, GEARS!) – and then hell froze and we got a networking guide from an engineer. :-)

I just got back from a conference last week, where I was an organizer. There has been a lot of talk during this week about conferences as prime networking events for engineers, but it’s all been from the perspective of an attendee or presenter. It’s quite a different experience from the organizing side – and quite exhausting!

So the subject I want to address today is networking burnout. I want to know if anybody else out there experiences this – do you find yourself hitting a limit with the amount of socialization you can handle?

I find that I have a “socialization quota.” I don’t think this is specifically an engineering thing, I think it’s an introverted/extroverted personality type of phenomenon. When my sister goes to parties, or hangs out with friends, the personal interactions invigorate her. I enjoy hanging out with friends, but do it too much and I’m exhausted. It’s very clear when I hit my limit – normally I’m very open and friendly, occasionally even a bit charming. But overextend me with personal interactions, and all I want is to go home and curl up with hot chocolate. At the conference where I was constantly on call, answering questions from attendees, handling speakers and panelists, manning the registration desk, and attending after-hours cocktail networking events? Let’s just say I hit my limit on about Day 3!

So I have to pay attention to my quota. If I schedule too many social events in a weekend, I just get cranky. If I have to meet and mingle with strangers for too many hours in a row, my friendly smile quickly grows strained. I think to myself, “I LIKE you people, I just can’t DEAL with you any more…”

So after careful thought, in true engineering fashion I’ve decided that perhaps there’s a way to quantify the socialization limit. I think the variables would include:

  • Length of time spent socializing
  • Length of time between social events
  • Ratio of strangers to friends at the event
  • Degree of formality required (both in fanciness of dress and fanciness of food)

I agree that networking is important, necessary, and a skill worth developing. I think it’s also important to realize that especially during extended time periods like week-long conferences, it’s possible to overdo it. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, I pass it to you – do you experience networking burnout, dear readers? And if so, can we come up with an equation to describe the socialization limit?

One response to “Overdosing on Socialization”

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