Dear Matt: Everybody says you have to be networking through professional associations and on social networking sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. How do people find time to work full time, support a family and stay up-to-date in this social networking crazy world? Am I missing out by not being connected online all the time? Is this hurting my career? Help!
Matt: It's important to keep things in perspective and know your priorities, which are your obligations to your family and work first. The rest can all be managed but shouldn't dominate your free time, or create unnecessary stress.
If you can join a professional association within your industry - one where people actually meet in person and share ideas, develop relationship and educate each other -that is a good start. These types of organizations meet monthly or bi-monthly, and you can get to know people outside of the online world. A lot of times people you meet through this type of association soon become your contacts on Twitter or LinkedIn, and possibly Facebook. This can help expand your network and grow your contacts. Creating a LinkedIn page is probably the best option for someone like you. Once created, it doesn't require constant updates, but can create opportunities to connect with people in and out of your profession/industry who are serious about developing relationships and contacts. The advantage of Facebook or Twitter is you can easily keep a large number of people updated on what you are doing, and while it may not be as personal, you don't have to spend time e-mailing multiple people all of the time. So it's a catch-22 - you want to develop and build relationships, but you don't want to spend all of your time worrying about managing your contacts.
Rachel Hastings, vice president of WFC Resources (www.WFCResources.com) a Minnetonka-based company that helps employers create a more flexible, effective and supportive workplace, says if your job depends on your ability to grow networks and contacts you could justifiably spend time during business hours using social networking sites for business purposes.
"If busy working parents know one thing, it's that some things just have to go - you really can't do it all," says Hastings.
Try and stay active in the association (you don't have to attend every event or social gathering either) and maintain your professional contacts and relationships, but don't worry about being online all the time. It's not possible and it's not your priority.
Matt Krumrie is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, and has nine years of experience reporting on the employment industry. This column will answer readers' questions. E-mail questions or subject ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.