BIZ TIPS

Learn to Love Networking

Happy weekend guys! Trust that you are all doing great. Welcome to September.

So, while we are all getting set for the new week, below is an article co-authored by Tiziana Casciaro (an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior), Francesca Gino (a behavioral scientist and the Tandon Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School) and Maryam Kouchaki (an Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations at Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University) that will surely be of immense value to you in your quest to achieve financial freedom and business success.

 

“I hate networking.” We hear this all the time from entrepreneurs, business executives, other professionals, and MBA students. They tell us that networking makes them feel uncomfortable and phony—even dirty. Although some people have a natural passion for it—namely, the extroverts who love and thrive on social interaction—many understandably see it as brown-nosing, exploitative, and inauthentic.

But in today’s world, networking is a necessity. A mountain of research shows that professional networks lead to more job and business opportunities, broader and deeper knowledge, improved capacity to innovate, faster advancement, and greater status and authority. Building and nurturing professional relationships also improves the quality of work and increases job satisfaction.

Below are four strategies to help you change your mind-set:

1. Focus on Learning

Most people have a dominant motivational focus—what psychologists refer to as either a “promotion” or a “prevention” mind-set. Those in the former category think primarily about the growth, advancement, and accomplishments that networking can bring them, while those in the latter see it as something they are obligated to take part in for professional reasons.

If you are an introvert, you can’t simply will yourself to be extroverted, of course. But everyone can choose which motivational focus to bring to networking. Concentrate on the positives—how it’s going to help you boost the knowledge and skills that are needed in your job—and the activity will begin to seem much more worthwhile.

2. Identify Common Interests

The next step in making networking more palatable is to think about how your interests and goals align with those of people you meet and how that can help you forge meaningful working relationships.

When your networking is driven by substantive, shared interests you’ve identified through serious research, it will feel more authentic and meaningful and is more likely to lead to relationships that have those qualities too.

3. Think Broadly About What You Can Give

Even when you do not share an interest with someone, you can probably find something valuable to offer by thinking beyond the obvious. Of course, this isn’t always easy. We’ve found that people who feel powerless—because they are junior in their organizations, because they belong to a minority, or for other reasons—often believe they have too little to give and are therefore the least likely to engage in networking, even though they’re the ones who will probably derive the most benefit from it.

When people believe they have a lot to offer others, such as wise advice, mentor-ship, access, and resources, networking feels easier and less selfish.

4. Find a Higher Purpose

Another factor that affects people’s interest in and effectiveness at networking is the primary purpose they have in mind when they do it.

Any work activity becomes more attractive when it’s linked to a higher goal. So frame your networking in those terms. We’ve seen this approach help female executives overcome their discomfort about pursuing relationships with journalists and publicists. When we remind them that women’s voices are underrepresented in business and that the media attention that would result from their building stronger networks might help counter gender bias, their deep-seated reluctance often subsides.

Many if not most of us are ambivalent about networking. We know that it’s critical to our professional success, yet we find it taxing and often distasteful. These strategies can help you overcome your aversion. By shifting to a promotion mind-set, identifying and exploring shared interests, expanding your view of what you have to offer, and motivating yourself with a higher purpose, you’ll become more excited about and effective at building relationships that bear fruit for everyone.

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