Network Your Way to a More Fulfilling Life

Networking is good for you — and not just as a way to advance your career. In the Forté webinar, Women Lead: The Power of Your Networks, Dr. Marissa King explains that your social connections also have a positive impact on your health. Marissa is Professor of Organizational Behavior at Yale School of Management, and author of the book Social Chemistry: Decoding the Elements of Human Connection

She says, “Our networks have an extraordinary impact on our professional lives, but they also impact our physical health and well-being. Despite the many benefits of social connection, we’re currently facing a loneliness epidemic. Even prior to COVID-19, there was a lot of talk about the rapidly rising rates of loneliness.” The value of networking isn’t in how many people you know or how many connections you have on LinkedIn. Marissa told the audience, “It’s the quality and structure of your relationships that matter.”

If networking doesn’t come easily to you, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on its benefits. She says, “Social intelligence can be learned. By understanding the rules of how social interactions work, you can overcome anxiety, reduce fear, and make engaging in these types of interactions far easier.” In the webinar, she shares guidance based on research about human behavior.

For example, a crowded room may feel like an impenetrable wall of people, but take a closer look. She says, “People don’t form walls. They actually form small clusters or islands.” Instead of trying to find a familiar face in the crowd, she offered a tip for connecting with someone new: Look for an island with odd number of people. She says, “Chances are good that someone in that group is looking for a conversational partner.”

Check in with Your Former Colleagues

Want to make the most of the power that already exists in your network? Reach out to someone from your past. Marissa mentioned a Rutgers study that compared what happened when a group of executives asked their current network for help with what happened when they asked a “dormant tie” — someone they hadn’t spoken to in a couple of years — for help. She says, “They found that asking for advice from dormant ties actually had a more positive effect on contribution to work performance.” The older ties had new insights that provided a valuable perspective from outside the person’s echo chamber.

Reframe Your Interactions

If you have an aversion to networking because it feels like you’re trying to benefit from your personal connections, Marissa suggests a different approach. Stop thinking about what you can get, and ask yourself what you can give. She says, “There are many things you can give when you’re entering a social interaction. You can ask for help or ask a question, which gives the person on the other side a feeling of mastery or a sense of importance and competence.” You can also focus on giving them your attention. “Simply showing interest in someone and listening is an extraordinary gift in and of itself. It’s so rare these days to actually be heard and seen, people are longing for social connection.”

To learn more from Marissa, including how to recognize the type of network you have and best cultivate it, watch the full webinar, Women Lead: The Power of Your Networks. The recording is now available to Premium Access Pass members on demand.

A full library of previous Forté webinars is available to Professional Access Pass members. For $100/year, Access Pass members receive exclusive invitations to Women Lead webinars. If your company is a Forté partner you may be entitled to free Access Pass. Check our partners to see if your organization is involved. Access Pass members also have exclusive use of the Forté Job Center; you can browse positions and post your resume to be seen by leading companies seeking top talent.

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