Laura Bliss is CityLab’s West Coast bureau chief. She also writes MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Sierra, GOOD, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, including in the book The Future of Transportation.
Research shows schmoozing for career growth can make you feel slimy—literally. It doesn't have to be that way.
Learning to Love Networking: It could be the title of a self-help chart-topper, if only because so few of us actually enjoy extolling ourselves to higher-ups. In fact, new research shows schmoozing for career growth can leave workers feeling morally impure, and even physically dirty. Yes, dirty.
Networking felt most palpably repugnant among those with low power in their workplaces—sadly, the workers who need the career-expanding benefits of networking most. Often, "people feel that they cannot justify their actions to themselves," Tiziana Casciaro, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of Toronto and a co-author of the study, told Phys.org. "[A]nd the lack of justification comes from the difficulty people have in framing some forms of networking as motivated by a concern for other people versus a selfish concern."
Which is to say, the ick factor can result from the apparent self-serving nature of networking. But, Casciaro said, when people start to view networking not only as an opportunity for self-gain but also as a way to show how their skills and talents could help the other person, those dirty feelings can be overcome.
Notably, workers with greater power in their workplaces networked more often than those with less, and were less likely to report feeling dirty when they did. Which is one reason career advancements from low ranks can be really difficult: Those already in power are likely more comfortable with networking, and can use it readily to get even further ahead.
The trick is to try, with a reoriented perspective. Networking isn't just about you, but about how the other person could benefit from your contributions. Said Casciaro, "Don't underestimate what you can give."