DOI: 10.1177/08933189231213062 ISSN: 0893-3189

Performance and Professional Identity Construal in Inter-industry Networking Using Four Identity Categories

Jacqueline Militello
  • Strategy and Management
  • Communication

‘What do you do?’ is a stereotypical networking question. How professionals answer acquaintancing questions like this when first meeting sheds light on how identity is construed. Using data from a naturally occurring networking event for elite professional services in Hong Kong, this paper uses a close study of interaction and follow-up interviews to identify and examine proximal networking mechanisms and processes. Consistently, participants used some amalgam of emblems, things that convey a social persona, from four different categories: industry (e.g., finance), professional role (e.g., FX trader), organizational affiliation (e.g., Morgan Stanley), and hierarchical position (e.g., associate). These generate evaluations of projected/absent instrumental gain, holistic eliteness, ‘interestingness’, and social proficiency (based on how they are deployed), resulting in symbolic capital transforming into (un)realized and projectible material outcomes. Theoretically, these findings contribute to our understanding of networking mechanisms. Practically, they can improve self-presentation, inform organizations of exclusionary effects, and enhance networking strategies.

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