Research Is Rewriting the Definition of Professional Networking
When making our way into the professional world we were told to attend events, make the right connections and “network” as much as possible.
Unfortunately, after the first “networking” event, the majority of professionals never entered network mode again – and they had good reason to.
But why did this happen? Why does the majority of professionals roll their eyes or cringe at the thought of networking?
The general idea of traditional networking was completely self-serving. That’s why it never felt right approaching someone you barely knew in order to “make a connection” for whatever opportunity they were sitting on.
It makes complete sense as to why so many of us hate the thought of networking and there’s credible research to back this up.
A research paper from the University of Toronto titled, “The Contaminating Effects of Building Instrumental Ties: How Networking Can Make Us Feel Dirty” covers the exact reason as to why networking has become so “dirty.”
According to the research, “traditional” professional networking encourages relationships to be formed on a career need, rather than a sincere friendship, which triggers a feeling of moral disgust.
We had set ourselves up for failure from the very beginning.
With Great Power Comes Better Networking
Networking is hard when you first start out and like any skill, it takes time to develop. But there’s no arguing that networking is directly related to career success.
In the same report, the researchers asked 165 lawyers from five offices around the country about their networking habits. It was clear that lawyers who used professional connections were more successful. As they became more powerful within the firm, their feeling of moral disgust towards networking diminished.
Melissa Dahl of NyMag.com sums up these findings:
That can be interpreted in two ways: Once all your networking has finally gotten you to the top, maybe you feel better about it. Or, maybe people achieve powerful positions partly because they’re less grossed out by networking.
According to a post from Harvard Business Review in February of this year, the research team still hasn’t proven why power makes networking easier. Although, it does seem fairly obvious that as you progress through a career, your earned level of influence and expertise makes networking less challenging.
Take the Leap, Focus on Helping
Harvard professor and co-author of the study, Francesca Gino, said: “If you focus on what you can offer to the relationship, it might be an important mindset to have, and remove some of those feelings of inauthenticity.”
I strongly believe that we must change our perception and the definition of “networking” before it’s too late. What if we saw networking as an opportunity to naturally connect with someone else based on a shared interest or passion? What if networking simply meant reaching out and helping?
“It’s better to give before you receive. And never keep score. If your interactions are ruled by generosity, your rewards will follow suit.”
― Keith Ferrazzi, Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time
Let’s turn networking on its head. Instead of looking out for your own self-interest, approach each networking opportunity with a genuine interest in someone else.
We all know how great it feels to help someone. So if we network with an objective to help – and that makes us feel good – won’t that, in turn, make us do it more often and more effectively?