Networking: Whether you love it or hate it, there's no denying it's an incredibly important facet of the professional world.
Once you master the skill, you may feel compelled to grow your network to be as large as possible. In the world of professional connections, more is always more, right? But as Community Company CEO Scott Gerber writes in his article for the Harvard Business Review, being a "super connector" is about more than network size. In fact, once your network grows too large, it can actually hinder more than help you.
Here are five signs that you should consider scaling back your network:
1. You have little in common with people you talk to.
Variety is the spice of life, but if you find yourself regularly at a loss for words with people you once shared something with, that’s a sign you might need to move on. Branching out to people who you don’t relate to or connect with is a sign that you should reign in your network.
2. Your values have shifted, but people from your past are still in heavy rotation.
The people who associate with you, both professionally and personally, should reflect who you are now. If you’ve reached a point where people in your circle hold very different values from you or engage in behavior you don’t agree with, it may be time to prune your network back a bit.
3. Causes you truly care about often get pushed toward the back burner.
Chances are, the person who you were five years ago — or even just one year ago — is different from who you are now. Admitting that you’ve outgrown a person or a community can feel treacherous, but if you can’t devote time to the things you’re interested in now, you may be spreading yourself too thin in order to appease those in your too-large network.
4. Your interactions leave you feeling more drained than energized.
You used to look forward to regular gatherings, but now a wave of dread comes over you when you know you need to meet up with certain people. Whether it’s a coffee meet-up or more formal get-together, you find yourself coming up with excuses to back out more and more often. This is a sign you may be devoting your time to things that no longer serve you.
5. Authentic conversations feel like a luxury.
Spending time pretending to be another version of yourself is draining. If you find yourself putting on airs because you don’t think people know the real you, your network is too big.
If the above five signs resonated with you, follow these three steps to get your network back to a healthy size:
1. Assess what you want.
Think about what you truly want to spend your energy toward. Maybe you want to shift into a new opportunities. Choosing to focus your energy on new opportunities will create space for you to meet new people.
2. Stop attending events just because you feel obligated.
If you’re filling up your schedule to the max, you’re taking time away from things that you really care about. Don’t let a sense of guilt dictate your feelings. When you realize what you would like to let go of, let go of what doesn’t sustain you.
3. Decide who you want to spend more time with and who you want to push out.
If you realize your network is too large, that doesn’t mean that you should indiscriminately drop people from your life. After recognizing who you are and where you need to stop spending time, the relationships that are no longer contributing will naturally recede.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.