Build Strategic Social Capital and Leverage the Hell Out of It
Networking in the traditional sense is a waste of time and energy. So just stop. This is one of those "skills" in business everyone tells us we're supposed to do all the time if we are to uncover success. That is complete and utter b**sh*t. Instead focus your efforts on building strategic social capital and influence. This is especially critical if you plan to pursue a leadership path or transition in the near future. Women are notoriously bad at this professionally because we've never really been taught how to do this effectively whereas most men have been socialized to do this effectively since they were able to walk and talk. When it comes to our personal lives -- those who have one -- women fare better though we rarely leverage these key relationships to serve our future career ambitions. It's time we changed that and started thinking strategically about our relationships, personal and professional, so we are better equipped to plot our leadership trajectories and weather life's changes and transitions.
Social Capital... What It Is and How to Build It
The Najafi Global Mindset Institute at the Thunderbird School of Global Management is run by the brilliant Dr. Mansour Javidan and they have been identifying, tracking and measuring global leadership skillsets of successful senior managers for over a decade. The GMI defines social capital as a reflection of one's 'intercultural empathy, interpersonal impact, and diplomacy'. For our purposes when it comes to building strategic social capital -- which I would argue is essential whether you have a global career or not -- it is instructive to take a candid look at your abilities when it comes to how well you engage interpersonally, empathizing and reading others, particularly strangers, and this is key: without letting them drain your energy reserves. This skillset and mindset can take a lifetime to develop and no one truly ever masters it, we just keep working at it and testing ourselves by putting ourselves in situations where we can improve our abilities, challenge ourselves and do it in an environment where we feel comfortable and engaged. There are numerous case studies that Thunderbird has now documented in their Global Mindset Handbook showing how this works in the real world and in complex, cross-cultural environments. If you do have a global career path, this handbook is one learning tool worth investing in.
Building strategic social capital -- a diverse web of trusted relationships that will serve your personal and professional goals -- has nothing to do with networking in the traditional sense. When was the last time you went to a professional networking event and learned something, were inspired and/or actually had a good time? If networking gives you anxiety in any shape or form it's time to stop stressing. You'd be far better served spending time and focusing on events and efforts where your passion and talents are engaged, your curiosity and learning are stimulated. This is why long ago I stopped 'networking' in the traditional sense and instead focused on building strategic influence and social capital with others who share my interests, passions and/or where I find deep, meaningful purpose. Life is too damn short.