When you think of networking, most people think of external networking. You know, the kind of networking you do when you are looking to generate business or for a new job. But did you know that internal networking is just as important?
While most people tend to focus on building their relationships with external contacts building a robust internal network is equally important. It can help you get things done when you need additional input, build your personal brand and reputation within your company and provide you with an effective support system when you need advice and guidance.
Whether you work in a small company or large corporation, invest the time to get to know your fellow associates. From the receptionist to the CEO, everyone possesses key relationships. You never know who someone went to school with, is related to or worked with in a prior career.
The best way to approach internal networking is to be proactive and sincere in learning about your co-workers. Connect the dots on how your relationships could help them and where their contacts could help you. Begin building your internal network at all levels with both your peers and superiors. Don’t be afraid to include those above you in your network. I know networking is built on a mutual desire to help others and it’s hard to think how you may be helpful to those ranked higher, but trust me, you will find that you have more to offer than you think.
Here are 5 tips for networking within your workplace.
1. Find effective networkers
It is a good idea to build relationships with people who you know to be effective internal networkers, as they may be able to provide you with advice and guidance on who you should be connecting with. If you are already aware of such individuals within your team or the company, why not start by inviting them for an informal meeting and asking for some initial hints and tips on internal networking? They might even be able to introduce you to the people you want to meet.
2. Get involved
Contributing to cross-functional or company-wide projects and initiatives is not only good for your development, it can be a great way of growing your network. Projects like these are likely to expose you to a range of people with whom you would not otherwise have a chance to work, so it’s a good idea to get involved when the opportunity arises. There may be ongoing projects or initiatives that tie in to your interests, but if you’re unsure where to start, your manager or supervisor should be able to point you in the right direction. In addition, taking part in company-wide roadshows or presentations, training events and seminars or special interest groups can also expose you to people with whom you would not normally work.
3. Join in
Taking part in work-based social events and extra-curricular activities (e.g. charity projects and challenges) can be a good way of raising your profile and building your network in a less formal context. When such events arise, it is a good idea to find out who else is taking part and identify which individuals you should seek out on that day. This will help you to ensure your participation has a positive impact on your internal networking efforts.
4. Focus on diversity, not size
Your focus should be on building a diverse contact base, as opposed to a large one. For your internal network to have maximum impact, it should include a variety of people with different skills, qualities and experiences. Having a diverse network will help ensure you have access to a range of support, guidance, and input when you need it.
5. Use your network appropriately
Once you establish your internal network, make sure you are providing as much support to them as they are to you – be careful not to rely on it too heavily or to ask people for an unreasonable amount of their time. You should always aim to add value to them. If someone helps you, you should always try to reciprocate. Offering unsolicited help is not only good practice – it can also be a highly effective way of establishing your value as a member of other people’s networks. Depending on your contacts and their needs, this could involve introducing relevant individuals to one another, inviting others to join a special interest group or get involved with a project, or simply sharing your advice and expertise.
As with external networking, it is important to adopt a targeted approach to your internal networking efforts. Think about your objectives for building an internal network: perhaps you are seeking to grow your career within the company or build relationships with other managers or leaders who could advise, or even mentor you. Maybe there is a specific skill you wish to develop or you want to grow your career outside of your current department. With your objectives in mind, consider who in your company you should start building relationships with and how you could go about doing this.
What are some tips for internal networking that you have found helpful in your career? Please share them below.