MBA programs place a major emphasis on networking skills with their students and graduates, but a new study written by professors at Harvard Business School, Rotman School of Management, and Kellogg School of Management looks at the sometimes negative psychological impact professional networking can have on an individual.
Financial Times covers the study in a recent article, and looks at the issue of how professional networking can make people feel awkward and insincere because it’s perceived as being about career self-interest rather than making friends.
This sense of “moral impurity”, as its labeled by the researchers, prevents people from networking further, says the Rotman School’s Tiziana Casciaro, who is an associate professor of organizational behavior and human resource management.
“[These feelings] really have an impact on someone’s career. Networking is better for people’s development and advancement, this is how you learn the job, acquire knowledge and opportunities. It is important,” Casciaro tells FT.
To break out of the negative mindset toward networking, professionals must remember that cultivating a reciprocal relationship where both parties share knowledge and have mutual respect is a valid and important goal. Be willing to put time into building the relationship, and also be open to discovering new relationships, which may come from the most unlikely of places.
The best way to feel good about professional networking is to give before you get. Become a resource for others: pass on articles that could be helpful, or share employment leads when appropriate.
“If you keep an open mind and see it as an exchange of knowledge it becomes a much less selfish exercise,” Casciaro says, adding that having a genuine curiosity about the person they are talking to will make the networking far more successful.