Networking is one of those activities that can bring people out into a cold sweat. Standing in a room full of strangers, tasked with striking up conversations and making various acts of magic happen is something only a special kind of person seems to truly enjoy.
Alas, a new study suggests that this may be the thin end of the wedge, and that networking may be enough to make some people feel positively dirty. The research, conducted by academics from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, found that many professionals were really struggling to justify why they struggled with networking.
“People feel that they cannot justify their actions to themselves, and the lack of justification comes from the difficulty people have in framing some forms of networking as motivated by a concern for other people versus a selfish concern,” the researchers say.
The study suggests that it is one of the first that has explored the psychological impacts of networking, which has long been seen as an essential part of the professional world. The study based its findings both on a range of lab based experiments plus an exploration of networking in a large law firm.
Perhaps not surprisingly, it emerged that employees with more power in their work environment, were also much more comfortable when it came to networking, and thus engaged in it more often. Surely no coincidence there, but it does raise the interesting point that if the powerless feel disengaged from networking, then it can make it challenging for them to raise the ladder themselves, thus entrenching their lowly position.
The researchers conclude with a positive message however, and claim that this negative stigma can be overcome provided people begin to see it as an opportunity to learn new things and not a reflection of themselves as individuals. This mentality is something that I’ve touched upon a few times recently as something that is key to success in all manner of ways, so it’s perhaps no surprise to see it as a suggested benefit for networking too.
They also suggest that it helps to view networking as an opportunity to offer others a bit of help or advice. Once you begin to see networking as more of a two way street, they suggest it becomes a more enjoyable experience. Or a less nauseating one at least.