Networking can be an effective tool for information sharing, hearing about new jobs, developments in the industry, leading to new collaborations and opportunities to get ahead in your career.
Here are two most common mistakes that might be stopping you from making the most of your networking:
The self-similarity principle means that when you make network contacts you tend to choose people who resemble you in terms of experience, training, worldview, and so on. Research shows that executives, in particular, disproportionately use the self-similarity principle to build their networks. Obviously, it is easier to trust someone who views the world through the same lens you do; you expect that person to act as you would in ambiguous situations. What’s more, working with people who share your background is often very efficient: you both recognise concepts that allow you to transfer information quickly, and you are less likely to challenge one another’s ideas. Finally, like-minded people will usually affirm your point of view and, as a result, gratify your ego.
Research shows, however, that these benefits offer diminishing and sometimes even negative returns. Too much similarity restricts your access to diverse information which is crucial to both creativity and problem solving. If all your contacts think the way you do, who will question your reasoning or push you to expand your horizon? And because, over time, people tend to introduce their contacts to one another so that everyone becomes friends, the similarity of thought and skill reverberates, creating the so called “echo chamber”.
Another obstacle to diversity in networks is the proximity principle, which holds that workers prefer to populate their networks with people they spend the most time with, such as colleagues in their department. The reason this principle works against building efficient networks is that the world is organised by like things - people with the same training tend to be in the same department, just as people with similar backgrounds tend to live in the same neighbourhood. If you follow your natural tendencies and build networks according to the proximity and self-similarity principles, you will create echo chambers in your network and reduce opportunities to enrich your networks with greater diversity.
There is often a vicious circle effect especially for lower/middle level executives. These managers are expected and required to “get on with their jobs” - they lack the opportunity to develop their networks because they are at their desks most of the time. They cannot book themselves places at conferences on the grounds that they might happen to meet someone there who could be helpful to their future careers. They cannot attend politically-dimensioned events during working hours. If they then spend their evenings and weekends with their families how can they realistically build networks? Senior managers typically - but certainly not invariably - also tend to entertain. That is possible if one has a suitable large property etc, but lower/middle managers typically do not. This is all part of a complex class/hierarchy system.
These mistakes are made by executives as well as people starting out in their career. Have you noticed if you fall into a similar trap?
If you want to learn to avoid these and similar pitfalls, boost your networking game, and propel your career forward, we at Oxana Bristowe can help. Reach out to us to book a free career strategy review session (CRESS) - firstname.lastname@example.org