You might not like it, but networking is a vital skill in today's workplace.
Research suggests it can play an important role in success at work, and also job satisfaction.
There’s a problem though. For some it might come easily, but most of us have to overcome uncomfortable feelings that we’re somehow fake or phoney.
Help is at hand. In an article for Harvard Business Review, a team of researchers explore four strategies to help make networking easier.
Becoming a better networker
Focus on the positives: Focus on the best things you can get out of networking. Knowledge, skills and new ideas that might be useful in your job can all crop up.
Identify common interests: Think about what you have in common with the people you’re meeting. This will help you establish a meaningful relationship.
What can you offer?: The authors suggest you think broadly about the insights, knowledge and skills you can offer other people – even as a junior member of staff. “When you think more about what you can give to others than what you can get from them, networking will seem less self-promotional and more selfless,” they write.
Look for a higher purpose: If you feel uncomfortable, look beyond how the interaction will benefit you personally, they argue. By concentrating on how it could benefit, for example, your company, you might start to feel better.
Building the right networks
Once you’re a comfortable networker, it’s important to make sure you’re building the right sort of network, argues Professor Herminia Ibarra in an article for the World Economic Forum.
Ibarra, a Professor of Organizational Behaviour at INSEAD Business School, argues people waste time and energy by not concentrating on the right networks.
She argues there are at least three different types of networking:
Operational: These help you “manage current internal responsibilities”;
Personal: These help improve your own development;
Strategic: These are focused on the new business directions and help you bring on board necessary stakeholders.
Many people will overlook strategic networking, she believes. “Your strategic network is made up of relationships that help you to envision the future, sell your ideas and get the information and resources you need to exploit them,” explains Ibarra.
Ultimately, you’ll only see the benefits of networking once you start doing it properly, she argues.