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Cutting out social time at work can hurt your career

It takes more than just doing your job to get ahead

by Robyn Roark  |  5796 views  |  4 comments  |        Rate this now! 

Any successful corporate mogul will tell you that you don't get to the top level by merely doing a good job. Yes, work performance is necessary to build a solid reputation. However, it takes more than just doing your job to get ahead. For many of us, finding the next opportunity typically happens by searching for positions that match your current skillset. You may be looking to add Senior in front of that title. You may be trying to break into your first management position. You may just be looking for a job with better pay regardless of the title. It's all very tactical.

Moving up the corporate ladder should be much more strategic. Look at the successful folks in Senior Management at your company. It's not unheard of that many of them have worked together in the past and/or brought in their own management team when switching companies. These folks use their network to their advantage. That's how you get to the top. It's a winning combination of what and who you know.

I've seen, first hand, too many working mothers think that by cutting out the social time at work that they'll get more work done. And on some levels it may be true. You may feel like you accomplished more in that day since you cut out lunches and stopped going to the happy hour. Investing in the face time or, as my buddy Susan calls it, social capital at work can get you a lot further than just pounding the keystrokes at your cubical.

Up until this point, sitting across from my agency’s fearless leader, I had not given much thought to the fact that my social-butterfly ways could actually help me succeed in my career. I certainly hadn’t realized that overriding my personality to be more “efficient” could hinder my professional growth -- maybe even prevent a future promotion or other opportunities.

I realize that this is easier said than done. The mommy guilt of spending even more time away from home can rear its ugly head. And that feeling can be overwhelming. Yet I'm assuming that most women, regardless of whether they have kids or not, want to continue on a career path. Now, the intensity of the drive on the path may change. But I'd like to think that most of us don't want to be in the same role for the rest of our working lives. By making a few changes in how you go about your professional life can reap major rewards. The more people you know, the more opportunities you can make.

Start saying yes. You don't have to attend every happy hour or accept every lunch. But if your VP plans an outing for the team, make sure you attend. Casually invite your manager to lunch one day. If there is a lunch for a new hire or a soon-to-be ex-worker, do your darndest to make it. Stop complaining about yet another social event outside of work hours. Instead start saying, "Let me check my calendar." And then work with your spouse, friends, or babysitter to get the time to be able to attend. Again, you don't have to go to every single outing. Pick the ones that are strategic (ie. managers, executives, people of interest in attendance). And don't forget to work the room when you do attend.

About the Author

BirdieRoark works as a Sr. Program Manager at a Fortune 15 company. During the day, she bosses around men that are old enough to be her father. At home, she gets bossed around by a three year old boy

Read more by Robyn Roark

4 comments so far...

  • This is definitely one of the things I am NOT good at, and need to learn - thanks for a great article!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Florinda Pendley Vasquez on 2nd April 2008

  • So true. I see this at my day job a lot. Great article. Thanks for sharing your expertisel.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Ashley Ladd on 1st April 2008

  • Thanks for the mention! Look at you, all how-to-ing it. Love it. Very good tips, all.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Susan Wenner Jackson on 31st March 2008

  • I totally agree with this -- one of the first things I did when my daughter was born was stop going to networking lunches and dinners. I think it made it tougher for me to be successful at what I was doing and after a while, I started making lunch plans again (dinners still no because that was the only time I'd see my daughter). People often tend to think about networking as something you do outside of your company/organization, but I think it's also something to consistently do internally.

    Great advice!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Nataly on 28th March 2008