Networking has always been an indispensable part of building a successful career. Despite some of the challenges that COVID-19 has thrust upon the world as we know it, it still remains just as important as ever.
Networking hasn’t gone away – it’s simply changed a little. It’s vital for professionals to develop career agility and adapt to new challenges, while keeping a focus on expanding your networks in a safe but effective manner.
This article will highlight the benefits of professional networking for career fulfilment and provide tips on doing so in the era of COVID-19
How to Network to Improve Career Fulfilment
1. Be curious, be open-minded, be available
The reality is that not everyone likes “networking”. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s important to consider the frame of mind when putting up barriers for your own professional development.
When networking is perceived as an exercise in ‘using’ people to further your own means, it’s certainly an unappealing activity for most people. This is why it’s crucial to re-frame your perspective and to understand it as synonymous with relationship-building.
If you can encourage a genuine curiosity about other people in yourself, then you will lead yourself to connect with people based on who they are, not what they might be able to do for you.
2. Understand that there is more than one way to build a relationship
In a recent study, INSEAD identified that there are different types of approaches to networking and that people can hold different attitudes towards how they approach it.
In order to successfully navigate your own path, it’s important to be cognisant of the typical types of ‘networkers’ and to be self-aware of where you might fit into these groupings.
INSEAD’s research identified three principal groups:
Players – These are individuals who actively enjoy meeting with others and expanding their professional networks. They are often strategic in their actions and typically hold a strong understanding of the potential benefits of networking.
Moderates – These are individuals who are typically aware of the advantages of networking, but do not actively seek to create new opportunities to do so. Rather, they take advantage of relationships that naturally arise through ongoing projects or tasks.
Purists – Purists typically find the entire process to be unappealing and secondary to their career goals. They focus on developing self-driven skills and expertise over relationship building, but they do prioritise client and team relationships as they are inherently linked to project success.
3. Fixed vs. growth mindsets impact networking success
In a recent survey, INSEAD tested MBA students to unpack how their mindsets may be affecting their ability to network and produce positive results.
The study determined that those with a growth mindset were much more likely to find benefit in networking over those with a fixed mindset.
Approaching networking with a growth mindset helped participants maintain an open-ended perspective that encouraged perseverance and a long-term commitment to building relationships. Those with a fixed set of beliefs were much more likely to resign to confirmation bias when they did not find immediate gains from the exercise.
INSEAD believes that a growth mindset can be taught, and must continuously be cultivated.
As such, we strive to encourage the creation of meaningful connections among current students and the INSEAD alumni community.
In September 2020, we launched iLink, our first online career advising and mentoring platform, to forge relationships and create opportunities for networking among the exclusive INSEAD community of business leaders.
Networking in the Era of COVID-19
In a recent INSEAD webinar, Networking in Our New Reality, Noah Askin, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour, shares an important toolkit of practical tips to help equip professionals for successful networking.
While there is a lot of great advice that can apply to networking generally, it’s important to consider a few common-sense points that are respectful of typical social distancing measures:
- Remote meetings can be just as effective as in-person meetings.
- Rapid responses and a wide variety of communication channels will increase your potential for connecting with new people in your network.
- Yes – virtual events are a “thing”.
- Now is the perfect time to rekindle old relationships in your network.
- Remember that this is a stressful time for everyone. Now more than ever, it is a good idea to approach interactions with empathy, compassion, and gratitude.
Essentially, it’s important to remain conscious of potential restrictions that may need to be accommodated to connect with others safely, but to also maintain a positive perspective to ensure that efforts remain fruitful for everyone involved.
Build Habits and Set Goals
There are many ways to act on and think about networking, but the most important aspect is to realise that it is an essential part of setting a positive career trajectory for yourself. As talented as any one individual may be, teamwork and relationships will always be an essential part of any successful career.