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The double-edged sword of fast-tracking professional networking

In the modern workforce, time is of the essence. Being fast promises a competitive edge – wouldn’t it be great to be able to speed up your networking endeavors and establish those professional relationships that provide access to benefits, such as information, knowledge, or support important for work and career success, in a shorter time?

New research by Brennecke, Ertug, and Elfring suggests that it is indeed possible to vary the speed with which we network. Catalysts such as physical proximity, mutual friends, or gathering knowledge about potential contacts can help you accelerate the networking process and establish a work relationship faster. As a consequence, you gain earlier access to the relationship’s benefits and are able to dedicate time to tasks other than networking.

Yet, as is so often the case, shortcuts come at a cost. Specifically, this research shows that networking fast can compromise relationship strength and stability. It simply takes time to develop mutual trust and learn how to effectively work together or exchange complex knowledge. Moreover, the speed with which you establish a professional network can impact the types of accessible benefits and how well they fit with your goals and needs. For instance, relying on physical proximity to speed up networking – conveniently exchanging information with a colleague down the hall – implies less novel and less diverse information – as that colleague is likely exposed to similar input and environmental influences as you are.

Creating professional relationships has become a familiar and necessary part of working life and while saving time doing so may sound appealing to many, it is a double-edged sword. Hopefully, our new insights on the payoffs and perils of networking fast will help you understand and navigate the trade-offs between speed and creating those quality relationships that match your goals and needs.

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