Posts Tagged networking
Way back in 2009 I wrote about the social rejection self-fulfilling prophecy. This relates to the unfortunate fact that, if you expect someone you meet for the first time not to like you, you tend to behave more distantly towards them. This increases the chances that they won’t like you. The reverse is also true: if you assume that you will be liked, you tend to behave more warmly and thus increase your chances of being liked.
People who have high levels of social anxiety tend to fall into the trap of negative expectations. They are particularly sensitive to the possibility of social rejection. This threat triggers an avoidance approach which makes them behave defensively in unfamiliar social settings, leading to less than warm responses from the strangers they interact with. This, in turn, confirms their fears and insecurity about social rejection. A vicious circle.
This self-fulfilling prophecy can be a major handicap when it comes to career development. It means you are less likely to engage in appropriate professional networking, cutting off potentially useful sources of information, insight and advice which could boost your career. It makes you less likely to create a positive first impression during an interview. It can also affect your ability to establish important relationships in the crucial first few days of a new job.
How do you break out of this trap?
One of the most difficult things about networking is how to let people know about your dazzling achievements without appearing to be an overbearing self-publicist. Some recent research has looked at when it might be safe to boast and when it might damage your reputation.
Knowing why, knowing how and knowing whom — these are the three pillars of an intelligent career according to Michael Arthur, Priscilla Claman and Robert DeFillippi [(1995) Intelligent enterprise, intelligent careers. Academy of Management Executive, 9(4) 7-19].
The notion of the intelligent career was developed in response to the shift that was taking place in the corporate world in the 1980s and 90s — delayering, downsizing, outsourcing, etc. As part of this transformation, James Brian Quinn proposed that modern intelligent organisations should focus on their core competencies in three arenas: firm culture, know-how and networks.
Arthur et al. suggested that individual career success in such organisations could be founded on three similar personal core competencies or forms of knowing.
- Knowing why — Understanding your motivation for working. Being clear on your values and being able to identify with your work.
- Knowing how — Being aware of the skills and knowledge you bring to your work. Developing abilities to meet the demands of changing roles.
- Knowing whom — Developing and maintaining the relationships that can have an impact on your career. Thinking about your image and reputation with others.
When you meet new people, do you tend to assume that they will like you or worry that they will reject you? Either way, you may be involved in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you anticipate acceptance or rejection, you are likely to get what you expected. People who expect a favourable reception are more likely to behave warmly to the people they meet. This warmth influences the other person’s initial impressions of them. Conversely, if you expect to be judged negatively, you are likely to behave more coldly leading to negative initial impressions. Those initial impressions are then likely to influence future perceptions and judgements through the halo effect or the affect heuristic.
This has obvious implications for recruitment interviews and for networking. We often talk about the importance of good first impressions in these settings.
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A while ago I came across a fascinating article entitled ‘Graduates’ Construction Systems and Career Development’ by Valerie Fournier (Human Relations 50(4) 1997). The research used a technique from Personal Construct Psychology called the Repertory Grid to elicit the constructs (mental frameworks) through which graduates viewed themselves in the world of work. Fournier examined the graduates as they started their careers, after six months and then after four years.
She then compared the graduates whose careers had been successful with those who were less successful. She used objective measures of success (i.e. promotions) and subjective measures (i.e. reported career satisfaction).
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