Right from the moment we begin our careers we feel the need to make merry with our co-workers and higher-ups, but how much is too much? Many people do not enjoy networking much and cannot bring themselves to do it despite trying hard. To them, networking with others is a selfish way to connect with people, only to reap the benefits later. While professionals understand that networking creates new opportunities and forges interesting career choices, some people feel downright dirty about it.
According to a study conducted by Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino, those who felt that they networked too much and drove their conscience towards guilt, ended up buying more personal hygiene items such as toothpastes and soaps! We all know that one person in the office who cosies up a bit too much with the bosses to get more favors, or that one person who claims to ‘want to get to know you’ over a sneaky coffee break only to ask for an opportunity. None of us want to be THAT person, but is it all that bad?
Causes of The Guilt Trip
Why do some people feel guilty when networking? It is basically because they feel that networking is transactional, a give-or-take situation. So if a person strikes a cord with a coworker and asks something, he or she also expects something in return, and oftentimes the inability to give something back creates regret. Networking to get a job, investment or opportunity feels selfish at that point. Instead of the feel-good feeling that we have when making friends, we feel the complete opposite. This is especially true with introverts, socially awkward people, and junior-level professionals who have few connections. They felt like ‘takers’ or ‘users’ unable to give back. A shift in viewpoint is necessary here to ensure that networking is enjoyable not just for you, but also for those around you. Professor Gino suggests changing the perspective and taking control! Follow her pointers and you will build relationships just right.
Any junior professional will ask themselves how they can give back to someone they asked for an opportunity from. The answer is simple – get creative. The person you network with may have more connections, budgets, and influence than you, but you might have something in store that he or she does not. It could be a skill, or knowledge, or an activity that person has in common with you. For example, you could volunteer in different office parties or events, so that it puts you under the radar of senior officials. Not only will you learn several new skills, you will also automatically build new relationships and also contribute to the office in ways other than work. You could also offer help here and there. If someone needs help in writing or expertise in engineering and your credibility fits, do assist in any way possible.
Take Your Time
Genuinely build the friendship and invest your time in it. Go to events and parties or set up hangouts over a cup of coffee. Make an effort to know the person, be friends, and do not ask anything for a long period of time. Only approach the person with a request once you know that he or she is comfortable with you and legit considers you a friend. Asking for a favor immediately can raise eyebrows and certainly does not look good. In fact, if you take time and authentically build the friendship over time, your friend might proactively bring new opportunities for you, since that is what friends usually do.
Do Not Jump The Gun
Often you might be the broker between two parties and want to establish a genuine connection amongst the three of you. Remember to seek permission from both parties so that they both are willing to genuinely connect despite their busy schedules. If you do not honor their time, they will certainly not honor yours. If you want to introduce person A with person B, ask when both are free and then set up a meeting accordingly. Do not hastily confirm anything without the consent of any one party, or be over enthusiastic since chances are there will be no time for the meeting. Showing a lack of awareness for these things might make you come across as shallow and cause the person you requested to feel annoyed and accept your invitation to save reputation.
Sign Up For Memberships
Sometimes the key to success is not networking alone but to network in groups. You and your peers should make the most of joining different events. This includes professional workshops, seminars, alumni associations, various social committees, resource groups etc. However, quality is more important than quantity. Chances are that you will not be able to deliver your best if you are involved in too many groups. So pick a select few groups that spark your interest and go deep into the networking. Even if senior individuals are involved, you can create a good impression if you opt for leadership roles and be proactive in contacting other people first. Take the opportunity to make peer-level connections including with seniors.
Networking could hurt your career if you make it a habit to exploit other people’s status and influence and use them to your benefit. However, networking should not be about give-or-take at all. It should be a win-win situation for all parties involved to ensure that long-term and inspiring connections are made. The genuine intentions behind networking is what drives the success of your career. Happy networking!