Professional networking – cultivating informal relationships within and beyond your organization to obtain resources that enable goal achievement – is critical for workplace success. Yet, too often, people think ‘networking just isn’t for me.’ They assume that it takes a certain kind of person to be good at networking – namely extraverts. And it is true. Extraversion is a strong predictor of who engages in networking. The social and gregarious nature of extraverts and the energy extraverts experience engaging with many different people predisposes them to participate in professional networking. However, recent meta-analytic research by Hadjira Bendella and Hans-Georg Wolff at the University of Cologne finds that many different aspects of personality are positively related to networking.
So, even if you are not an extravert – maybe some of these other traits resonate with you. Each will set you up for networking success:
Agreeableness: Are you warm, considerate, and generally cooperative? These agreeable tendencies make it easier to build and maintain trusting relationships that are the hallmark of effective networks.
Openness to Experience: Are you curious, flexible, and inquisitive? These openness tendencies make it easier to generate conversation topics, engage information freely, and cover a broad range of issues.
Conscientiousness: Are you dependable and hard-working? Developing relationships takes work and requires follow-up and follow-through. The goal-directed nature of conscientious people can help them persist in building their professional networks to achieve their workplace goals.
Emotional Stability: Do you feel secure (as opposed to self-conscious, depressed, or anxious)? People who are higher on emotional stability are better equipped to handle the stress and strain that can sometimes accompany networking.
Self-Efficacy: Do you believe in your own abilities to achieve your goals? This self-efficacy should bolster your confidence when it comes to building and utilizing your relationships too.
Self-Monitoring: Are you able to adapt the way you present yourself in different social situations? High self-monitors can ‘read the crowd’ and adjust their behavior, enabling them to a good impression on others.Proactive Personality: Are you a self-starter? People who are comfortable taking charge and seeking information are well-suited to create and take advantage of opportunities to develop relationships with others.
So, who networks? All kinds of people! And I’m guessing some of the traits that describe these people sound a lot like you.
It’s important to remember there is no one right way to network and that you can draw on the natural aspects of your personality described above to help you develop relationships that will enable you to contribute at work and that will promote your career success.
It’s also important to know that not all networking will lead to networks that help you achieve your personal and professional goals. Some of our natural human tendencies can undermine our efforts to develop effective networks.
Learn more about what makes an effective network below: