The daily routine of home from lockdown and work has led to enhancing virtual friendships both professionally and personally, right? That is what most of us have experienced. What explains the growing reports of depression and stress among employees? After all, didn’t Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman find people enjoying socializing with others as too relaxing? But here’s the thing: it depends on who we communicate with. Friends, relatives and important ones, yes. Professional acquaintances? Not too much. Research makes it clear why people should not network professionally: they do not like it.
Is it counter-intuitive? A study of government employees observed that network-building behaviors were related to the joining of social capital, which affected the pace of promotion. A longitudinal study has found that networking intensity is positively correlated with both one’s current salary and its growth over time.
In the best of circumstances, professional networking is rather in demand. Doing it remotely, after a day full of zoom meetings, feels a lot more. Despite public inconvenience, organizational life, even in the post-Kovid world, is intertwined. Evidence shows that networking is essential for career success, but it does not require much effort. Here are some tips for that.
One, spend time. The more you do the more you like it. Networking expert Evan Misner concluded that people should spend 8-10 hours a week looking for professional relationships. Find out who you want to meet to take your career forward, make a list and decide how you are going to connect with them and when you want to talk. We can enjoy what is good. Many people say that what initially seemed uncomfortable and unnatural as networking becomes more enjoyable and easier over time. A schedule full of remote meetings should also give space to your distant goals.
Two, develop a large number of weak relationships. Sociologist Mark Granowater says that people only have weak relationships with themselves, that they have met once or twice, rarely seen or just regular acquaintances. This is because those who are closest to us have the same information and contacts, while those who are relatively far apart have a non-overlapping duration.
Three, reach out to people from different industries and geographical areas. Just as diversification is good for a financial portfolio, knowing a diverse group of people with different interests and backgrounds can be useful professionally. Contacts can create rolodex without face-to-face interactions. People need ideas for the Kovid Crisis and you appreciate sharing information and insights.
Four, look for people who can play brokerage or link roles. It is beneficial to bring together people who can benefit from the interaction. For example, it can be used to connect venture capitalists, social actors and those with technology and business ideas. Just as investment bankers connect with companies that need capital to invest in companies that need capital, one can help build bridges that can be put to good use. According to sociologist Ronald Burt, brokerage in structural gaps between groups reveals invisible choices, the role of which is the way in which social capital is produced. This translates to career success because brokers, thanks to their diverse connections, have better ideas. Burt’s research provides an important insight: Network location is important. Individuals who bridge groups within or across organizations benefit from their job performance and career.
Networking is not a personality trait, it is a behavior, and it can be learned. Fortunately, the evidence suggests that you can choose all networking skills even if you identify yourself as an introvert. Burt and a colleague conducted a field experiment in which they educated some executives in an organization on building social capital and analyzing network structures. Compared to those who attended the event with subsequent careers, both found that they were 36-42% more likely to receive previous performance expectations, 43-72% more likely to be promoted (increased impact over time), and 42-74% more likely to retain their companies. These skills are instructive.
It is very difficult to put these learned skills into practice during a pandemic or crisis. People do not interact with others in meetings, for example, they have become virtual. Tangle? People need to be more strategic in their networking activities whether Zoom triggers a coma or not.
What was once an opportunity is no longer there. Networking should be more deliberate. Not just for one’s career, but for personal happiness and well-being. Succeeding in this endeavor is likely to make social capital more valuable in a difficult environment. This makes the lessons of networking even more important to master.
Jeffrey Pfeiffer and M. Munir are chair chairs of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and co-founders of the Nonprofit Medicine Institute.