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Do I have to network?

By Jim Berlucchi

Do I Have to Network?

Can’t I Just Do My Job?

I am a relatively new employee at a large company, and I’m always hearing that I have to “network” and make connections with my co-workers and people in management in order to advance. Shouldn’t my work speak for itself? I’m not the outgoing type to schedule lunches or meetings with people I don’t know.

If work were simply measurable output, your work should speak for itself. But in fact, we are social creatures by nature. Unless you’re a lone explorer in the south pole, your work is naturally connected to other people. You are affected by them; they are affected by you. Work, as with recreation, travel, church or any human activity, is a people business.

One of the most brilliant insights of Catholic social teaching is the notion of solidarity. No person is an island. The self-made person doesn’t exist. And Jesus’ theme song was not: I Did It My Way. The Christian view is not like that of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes: “The life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Rather, made in the image of the Trinity, human beings are intimately, necessarily and forever, connected to and dependent upon one another.

“Networking” for the sake of “getting ahead” is a crass way of approaching work relationships. The motive is selfish; the method is manipulative. It reduces relationships to gamesmanship. “Let me cozy up to Jenny so-and-so, so I can become Jerry such-and-such.” Not only is it ignoble, but people tend to see through it. Sooner or later, an ambitious manipulator gets found out – often in a most embarrassing way. “Did you see Jerry suck up to Jenny? How pathetic!"

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to advance in your career. Just don’t use people as your stepping-stones. As for not being the outgoing type, that’s fine. That doesn’t translate into disinterest in people and aversion to friendship. You would do well to expand your self-image, move outside your comfort zone (little by little), and grow in your appreciation of your colleagues. By doing so, your life will be enriched, your career will be enhanced and your Christian witness will be expanded.