In a recent informal discussion, the value of professional networks as opposed to social networks was raised. Without exception all people involved in the discussion agreed that the ability to network professionally is essential in today’s business environment, however where the conversation went next was even more interesting.
Some of those present indicated that they had no problem whatsoever participating in professional networking, others indicated that it could be challenging depending on the circumstances, and another group found the whole process very disconcerting saying they felt that it lacked authenticity, was shallow and phoney, and one person said they felt distinctly uneasy having to network.
An immediate response by a number in the group was the cause of these feelings of uneasiness was as simple as some people are extroverted and are naturals at networking, while others are introverted and shy naturally avoided networking. Neither is actually true.
It is important to understand there is shyness and it is different to introversion. In fact you can have a person who is a shy extrovert. Shyness is behaviour; it’s being fearful in a social situation. Whereas introversion is a motivation; introverts may feel confident and at ease around people, they simply require more alone time to balance out the energy they expend in social situations (Dembling).
There is no conclusive reason only hypotheses for these feelings of lacking authenticity in professional networking situations. A plausible hypothesis is one of attitude that is strongly influenced by our observation of the behaviour of others in professional networking situations who leave no doubt that they are acting out of self-interest and their singular intent is extracting personal benefit for themselves.
Changing mindset and motivation towards professional networking from seeing it as acting out of self-interest to one where its underlying purpose is to is benefit others (Casciaro) can go a long way to addressing the feelings of not being authentic.
Accepting a mindset change to that of benefiting others, the group offered ways in which they believe value can be added in professional networking.
- Set clear intentions around what you can offer or where you can add value that will benefit others.
- Treat professional networking as an opportunity to learn from others and expand your current knowledge and skills.
- Approach professional networking with a sense of curiosity about people, their work, how they have built their success.
- Think long-term, take time to build genuine connection.
- Be willing to ask questions, listen more than you talk.
- Relate, don’t promote, and ditch the pitch.
- Follow through respectfully on any commitments you make.
The conclusion reached is that for today’s business environment, if approached with the right mindset and intention, professional networking can support you. Your focus needs to be on discovering what you can do for someone else and not make it about your needs and how others can assist you.
Viventé Australia enables leaders and managers to create the conditions that allow their people to do their best work every day thus creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its outcomes.