Hate Networking? Here’s How to Get Over It
Try these four networking tips to stop feeling guilty about developing relationships to advance professional goals.
Does networking make you feel dirty? Research published in Administrative Science Quarterly confirms you are not alone. The authors suggest that acting in self-interest in pursuit of our career goals can affect our sense of morality.
But, as we know, professional connections are essential to advancing your career, pursuing new opportunities, and earning new business. But how can we get past our distaste for networking?
An aversion to networking can be overcome, according to research by Tiziana Casciaro, associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management; Francesca Gino, professor at Harvard Business School; and Maryam Kouchaki, assistant professor at Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. The team identified four strategies for learning to love networking, and published their findings in a recent Harvard Business Review article.
1) Focus on learning
People who approach networking as a necessary evil do it less often and consequently underperform in certain aspects of their jobs. Instead of viewing the next work outing as a chore, shift your mindset to focus on the possible positive outcomes — like gaining knowledge or skills that will help you do your job better.
2) Identify common interests
How do your interests and goals align with the people you meet? People establish the longest-lasting connections when working together on tasks that require contributions from both parties. When you identify mutual interests or objectives with networking contacts, your relationship is more likely to be authentic and to stand the test of time.
3) Think broadly about what you can give
When you don’t have an obvious mutual interest, try offering some kind of value to the relationship. Even junior-level employees, who don’t have company stature or connections to extend, have more networking capital than they may realize. Less tangible things — such as gratitude, recognition, and enhanced reputation — can be highly valuable, the authors suggest.
4) Find a higher purpose
Rather than focusing on the personal benefits, consider the collective value of forming professional connections. Will building relationships help your clients? Will more visibility in professional circles or at industry events enhance your company’s reputation? Framing networking in terms of a larger goal can make the activity more palatable, even helping you to see it as a beneficial opportunity.
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