HBR: How to Make Networking at Conferences Feel Less Icky

The LBMExpo is this week. What new discoveries might you make while attending the conference? Will you build new relationships? Below is a blog from the Harvard Business Review by Francesca Gino.

How to Make Networking at Conferences Feel Less Icky

Whether you like attending them or not, conferences offer great opportunities for networking. At conferences, you can extend your network by meeting new people, including potential employers or employees, and you can catch up with and get updates from those you already know.

In fact, networking has become a key factor for professional advancement and career success. Whether you’re an extrovert who fits naturally into any situation or someone who has a hard time chatting with new people, networking is a necessary skill if you’re looking to get ahead. But while a lucky few clearly have a natural talent for developing business relationships and reaping the resources that come with them, most people find networking uncomfortable, stressful, and even manipulative. I have studied why people have these feelings and have some suggestions for how to overcome them.

In research I conducted with Tiziana Casciaro (of the Rotman School of Management) and Maryam Kouchaki (of Kellogg), we examined how people react to the prospect of personal networking in pursuit of emotional support or friendship and instrumental networking in pursuit of professional goals.

In one experiment, we asked 306 adults to remember a time when they networked. One group was asked to recall a scenario in which their goal was to form one-sided professional contacts — that is, instrumental networking. People in the other were asked to remember an attempt to form a more natural, personal connection with people in their industry — that is, personal networking.

Next, the participants did a word-completion task in which they were given word fragments such W _ _ H, S H _ _ E R, and S _ _ P. These puzzles could be filled in with words related to cleanliness like wash, shower, or soap. But they could just as easily fit words unrelated to cleanliness such as wish, shaker, and step. The participants who’d been asked to recall the situation where they’d engaged in instrumental networking were about twice as likely as those who engaged in personal networking to fill those puzzles in with cleansing-related words.

We concluded that instrumental networking, but not personal networking, makes people feel not only anxious or inauthentic but also physically dirty. The metaphorical link between feeling morally and physically pure, or clean, is a powerful one. In previous research, my colleagues and I found that feeling morally tainted increases our desire for cleanliness and find ways to be helpful to others in order to reduce such strong feelings.

Because professional relationships formed primarily for the purpose of getting ahead tend to be more one-sided and selfish than other relationships, a transaction in which reciprocity is a secondary concern feels a little immoral. Why is this a problem? Because your performance will suffer if you don’t engage in networking. In another study, we asked 165 lawyers from five offices across North America how frequently they networked and how they felt while they did it. The lawyers who did more professional networking performed better (in terms of billable hours) than those who didn’t. Interestingly, the more powerful the individual was at his firm, the less likely he or she was to report feeling dirty about networking.

In another study, we asked students to think of someone they’d like to know better. One group was told to think of a person they’d like to know better socially; the other group was told to think of a person in a professional context. Those in the “social” group were told to send a message to the person through Facebook; those in the “professional” group were told to send a message to the person through LinkedIn. After sending their message, the participants indicated how they were feeling. Once again, the people in the professional networking group reported feeling physically dirtier than those in the personal group.

Given the benefits of networking, how can we get around the uncomfortable feelings it triggers? The answer is to reframe the way you think about what you’re doing. Networking rooted in a motivation to benefit others and an authentic desire to grow diminishes feelings of moral impurity, we’ve found. With that in mind, here are four recommendations:

Think about what you can give, not just what you can get. When you network to extract benefits without considering what your counterpart’s interests, needs, and desires are and how you can meet them, you make yourself vulnerable to the insidious psychological burden of inauthenticity and moral impurity.

Think broadly about what people value. As you focus on what other people value, you probably tend to think very narrowly about their obvious interests (e.g., earning more, having a higher position) and much less about what is unique about that person and how that relates to what you might be able to provide him or her that others can’t. You must consider much more broadly and creatively the resources that can potentially flow through a relationship and appreciate the entire range of what the other person may value at any given point in time.

Build relationships based on substantive shared interests, and do your homework. Much too often, people confuse networking with simple extraction of value from others. But networking must be mutually stimulating and valuable to be sustainable. Networking driven by substantive, shared interests and based on thorough research into others can be highly effective and won’t spark negative feelings.

Think of networking as an act of discovery and learning. Approaching networking as an opportunity rather than a necessary evil can also be an effective strategy. It can lead you to view networking with excitement and curiosity. If you are open to learning from people around you, you will begin to view networking as a gift, and one that is totally clean.



Oppose Employee Free Choice Act


Preserve Democracy: Oppose Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800/S.1041) 
Contact Congress Today!

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) gives private-sector workers the right to join or form a union and to bargain collectively over wages, hours, and working conditions. In order for a union to be acknowledged to represent workers, it must first demonstrate that it has the support of a majority of workers in the bargaining unit. Historically, the decision about union representation is made through a secret ballot election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Since fewer workers have opted for union representation through the traditional secret-ballot election, organized labor has begun employing “card check organizing.” This tactic bypasses an official secret ballot election and instead allows for recognition of the union as the bargaining representative once it presents authorization cards signed by a majority of workers that the union is seeking to organize. Since it may appear evident that a union enjoys a majority of employee support, current law allows employers to waive the secret ballot election requirement and recognize a union that produces signed cards from over 50% of the workers.

Unlike secret ballot elections, which ensure that employees can cast their votes confidentially and without enduring peer pressure or coercion from unions or employers, card check elections have been legally challenged on the basis of coercion, misrepresentation, forgery, fraud, peer pressure and promised benefits.

Despite the problems inherent with card check elections, some Members of Congress are championing legislation which would, in effect, codify card check organizing and effectively stop secret ballot elections. The Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800/S. 1041) would require the NLRB to certify a union – and prohibit a secret ballot election – if presented with signed authorization cards from a majority of employees that the union is seeking to organize.
Contact Congress Today!

If you go to the link below — Northeast Retail Lumber Association Capital Connection website -you can email or print letters to your elected officials. I encourage everyone to contact your elected officials about this important issue.