I hate networking.” We hear this all the time from our friend, executives and other professionals.
People claim that networking makes them feel uncomfortable, phony and sometimes even dirty.
Some people have a natural excitement for it, usually, the extroverts who love and thrive on social interaction—many understandably see it as brown-nosing, exploitative, and inauthentic.
Even though you hate networking, in today’s world it is crucial.
A mountain of research shows that professional networks lead to more business opportunities, deeper knowledge, improved capacity to innovate, and greater status and authority. Building your network also improves the quality of work and increases job satisfaction.
Study of 165 lawyers at a large North American law firm, found out that their success depended on their ability to network effectively both externally (to bring business into the firm) and internally (to get themselves assigned to choice clients). Those who avoid those activities them had fewer billable hours than their peers.
Fortunately, research shows that an aversion to networking can be overcome. For that reason, we explain four strategies to help people change their mindset.
1. Focus on Learning
Most people have a dominant motivational focus. What psychologists refer to as either a “promotion” or a “prevention” mindset. Those in the former section, think about personal benefit, such as: 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.
Promotion-focused people networked because they wanted to and approached with open mind and with excitement and curiosity. Prevention-focused people saw networking as a necessary evil and felt inauthentic while engaged in it. So they did it less often and, as a result, don’t achieve the same results as promotion-focus people.
But, no worries it is possible to shift your mindset from prevention to promotion, so that you see networking as an opportunity for discovery and learning.
Consider a work-related social function you feel obliged to participate. You can tell yourself, “I hate these kinds of events. Or you can tell yourself, “Who knows, it could be interesting. Sometimes when you least expect it, you have a networking experience that brings up new ideas and leads to new experiences and opportunities.”
It is important to work on your mindset and concentrate on the positives, how it’s going to help you boost the knowledge and skills that are needed in your job. After it, the activity will begin to seem much more worthwhile.
2. Identify Common Interests
The next step in making networking more attractive 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.
Researches in social psychology have demonstrated that people establish longest-lasting connections when they have common interests or they work together on tasks that require one another’s contributions.
When your networking is driven by substantive, shared interests you’ve identified through serious research, it will feel more 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 think that you do not share an interest with someone, probably you can 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, hate networking and often think they have too little to give.
But, those with lower rank and less power almost certainly have more to offer than they realize. In their book Influence Without Authority, Allan Cohen and David Bradford note that most people tend to think too narrowly about the resources they have that others might value.
People mostly focus on tangible, task-related things such as money, social connections, technical support, and information, while ignoring less obvious assets such as recognition, gratitude and enhanced reputation. For instance, although mentors typically like helping their mentee, they tend to enjoy it all the more when they are thanked for their assistance.
You might also have unique insights or knowledge that could be useful to those with whom you’re networking. For example, junior employees are often better informed than their senior colleagues about generational trends and new markets and technologies.
When you realize about what you can give to others than what you can get from them, networking will seem less self-promotional and more selfless and therefore more worthy of your time.
4. Find a Higher Purpose
Another factor that affects people’s interest 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 experience in those terms.
Many of us are doubtful and hate networking. We know that it’s critical to our professional success, but sometimes we find it stressful and often distasteful. These strategies can help you overcome your aversion. By shifting to a promotion mindset, identifying shared interests, expanding your view of what you have to offer, and motivating yourself with a higher purpose, you’ll become more excited about building relationships that bear fruit for everyone.