10 Good Reasons To Treat Networking as a Mindset

Networking as a Mindset: Most People Take The Wrong Approach

Most professionals start networking only when in need. Whenever they need to find a new job or change their profession, they finally find a while to reach out to people. They pick up the phone and start calling friends after years and years of silence — pretending that they care. And then, after two minutes of exchanging greetings, they proceed to ask about opportunities… only to find out that this doesn’t lead to any results.

In other words, most professionals treat people in their extended network instrumentally and only reach out to them if there is some problem to fix. But this is a highly sub-optimal way of building careers. Successful people tend to build careers in a much more relational way, treat their network as their main asset, and nourish it every day.

In this article, we will talk about why it is already too late, and why you should rather treat networking as a mindset — and keep on networking every single day.

Why Most People Are Afraid of Networking

The fact that most people don’t network enough is not rooted in laziness or procrastination. It has roots in human neurobiology. Due to limited time and limited capacity of our working memory, we are naturally capable of maintaining up to 150 connections (also known as the Dunbar’s number).

If we start making extra connections beyond this circle, we start losing control over what is happening in our network. And in most people, this causes anxiety. We are naturally scared of this cognitive asymmetry that occurs when more people recognize us than we can recognize. We feel like we were under constant observation, and that’s not good for our overall feeling of safety.

However, it is worth getting over the fear and keep on building your network! In this article, we’ll list 10 different reasons why networking is your best shot at a successful and happy professional life.

Reason #1: Your Social Capital Is Like Money In The Bank

Your social capital is a form of capital. When you think about this, you could even estimate the value of all your contacts. E.g., if you know 100 people who would agree to give you a couch for a week once every two years, then in theory, you don’t need an apartment anymore. Of course, no one would like to couch surf for life — it’s just a mental exercise.

So, social capital is just like any other form of capital — it is there to support you and fulfill your needs when necessary. And it is better to do have some capital rather than an empty account, just in case. Just imagine that you suddenly need to go to a dentist and you don’t have any cash — you need to earn it first. Well, that hurts.

Also, similarly to money which “likes hustle” and usually comes to those who don’t need it anymore, opportunities also like hustle.

In graph theory, a “minimal viable network” is a minimally connected network that can connect all the nodes in the network (even if the connecting path is very long and inefficient). Most people end up building such a “minimal viable network” in their lives — a minimal network that caters to their emotional needs.

While in fact, there is no such thing as a “too big network.” The more the better, because every new contact creates a new opportunity. While investing your time and effort in building a network, you invest in an asset that will pay you dividends later on.

Reason #2: Your Social Capital Is Your Only Asset That Only Grows In Time

Let’s be real: your health will derail in time no matter what you do. Regardless of how healthy you eat and how much time you spend in the gym, you will get weaker and slower at some point. Your money can also be taken away, either eaten by inflation, burned by bad investment decisions, theft, or the alleged Great Reset coming up.

Yes, you can lose literally everything in life — except for your network. Your network is the only asset that will only grow in time if you nourish it properly.

Reason #3: Your Profit From Networking Grows Like Compound Interest

People talk. If they have good experiences, they don’t hesitate to share them with others. And when the topics of weather and sports get exploited, they tend to look for contingencies in their personal networks and start gossiping about people. We all love to gossip, no question about that.

So, you can profit from the fact that people gossip. The more people whom you know (and whom you leave with a good impression), the more gossip, people suddenly knocking at your door, and new contacts you can expect. At some point, you will experience the snowball effect: your network will stop growing linearly, and start growing exponentially. You won’t need to do much more to keep it growing — similarly as money produces more money, contacts produce new contacts.

Reason #4: We Live In Times When Well-connected People Are Privileged

We have a natural fear of being exposed to others. In the old days, we used to live in small tribes and the main reason for standing in front of the whole tribe was to get publicly punished. The best you could do for yourself back then, was to fly under the radar and make sure that the tribe leader doesn’t even notice your existence.

This is the main cause why, until this day, more people fear public presentations than death (73%, according to the National Institute of Mental Health). But, in the past few thousand years, our environment and culture have changed. Now, people who are exposed are privileged not punished. The well-connected and the visible are the ones whose opinion is more respected, who get paid better, get higher positions, get invited to every event, or even get paid for attending!

Therefore, it’s good to realize that your fear of networking is an : it’s a reaction that helped us evolve and survive in the old times. But now, the rules of the game have changed — and your strategy for navigating in society should change too.

Reason #5: By Hanging Around People Who Are Different From You, You Learn More About Yourself

Other people are like a mirror. Once you spend time with them, you get a better view of your unique characteristic. How can you really learn your boundaries, strengths, and weaknesses if you do not encounter people who are very different from you? People often don’t realize their own talents just because they assume that whatever is easy for them, is also easy for everyone else — which is not true.

Reason #6: Some Jobs Never Get Announced To the Public

This sounds obvious, but you might be surprised at how many jobs are handed in over the counter. The open announcements are just the tip of the iceberg. According to Business Insider , 70% (or more!) jobs are never listed.

Moreover, in many areas of the job market, like in public institutions (including universities), many jobs are only announced because they legally need to be — while in fact, the preferred candidate is already known. Without a network, it will be impossible for you to get in.

Moreover, in many areas of business, deals are only handled via personal contacts. There is ton of scam and fraud online, so people don’t trust publicly available information anymore. They only trust their friends and friends of friends. The higher the stakes, the less likely they will be to let people from outside their network in.

Overall, you can safely assume that without networking, you skip on at least 90% of all the opportunities. Can you afford this?

Reason #7: Statistics Don’t Lie! Networking Is More Efficient Than Submitting Job Applications

In marketing, the term “conversion rate” is used to describe the efficiency of a given action, in terms of how often it leads to the desired response. As a type of action, networking gives a much higher conversion rate than submitting job applications.

As a matter of fact, most people spend most of their job search time browsing through open job applications and writing application documents, and then, somehow, they still end up finding jobs due to their personal connections. The truth is: one hour of networking will give you much higher odds of landing an actual job (or even creating a new position for you!) than an hour spent applying online.

Reason #8: Networking Is a Way of Reducing Uncertainty and Protect Your Mental Health

Due to unstable dynamics caused by a sequence of black swans , today’s world is higher uncertain and unpredictable. We live in the times of : Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. And this is going to change any time soon. No wonder mental illnesses have become a global problem .

Skillful networking provides you with a safety net, makes you better informed, reduces uncertainty, and makes your future safer and more predictable. If not for your professional opportunities, do it for your mental health!

Reason #9: Networking Is Fair

Some people were born physically stronger, healthier, prettier, and more wealthy than others. But, no one was born with deep, healthy relations with other people. We all start with a tabula rasa, and we need to build trust and bonds with other people by caring and putting in an active effort. OK, some people were born into better-connected families than others, but they still need to work on the quality of their contact with people or otherwise, their lives are just empty.

Reason #10: According To Science, Better Connected People Live longer, Are Healthier, and Happier Than Others

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, networking leads to longer and higher-quality life. In The Harvard Study of Adult Development , running for over 75 years, 724 men enrolled at the point when they were reaching adulthood. They were then tracked for decades with respect to their health, relationships, and overall life satisfaction. According to Robert Waldinger , the chief researcher in the study, it turns out that it is not fame, wealth, or cholesterol level at age 50 that best predicts health at age 80. It is the quality of relationships with family and friends.

The study by (Evolution and Human Behavior, 2016) also referred to this point. Namely, according to Hilbrand’s study, elderly people who are casual caregivers-both within and beyond their family-live longer than their counterparts who don’t carry out similar activities. It’s hard to disagree with this finding-people met on the way often become the only capital that you gain from your projects.

For more information on how we can foster happiness, please check out the article “ How To Be Happy? The Only Justice in the World .”

Conclusion: Some Solid Reasons To Treat Networking as a Mindset

In conclusion, what else do you need? 🙂

Everyday networking will make the quality of your life better on every single level. Networking is one of the activities that Eisenhower would place in the “important but not urgent” category — the category crucial for overall life success. Since non-urgent tasks will always lose the competition with urgent tasks, you need to actively find time for them and put it on your agenda.

Good luck and hopefully, see you in person at some event!

Originally published at https://ontologyofvalue.com on May 9, 2022.

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A neuroscientist helping professionals in finding their dream career paths at ontologyofvalue.com Privately, enthusiast of tech with affinity to blockchains.

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Natalia Bielczyk, PhD

Natalia Bielczyk, PhD

A neuroscientist helping professionals in finding their dream career paths at ontologyofvalue.com Privately, enthusiast of tech with affinity to blockchains.