start right where you are :: INTERNAL NETWORKING
A few weeks ago, while prepping for a Genesys Works training session, I was pondering the program: these interns have a stunning opportunity to start building their professional networks while they’re still in high school. They learn new skills, showcase their work ethic & personalities and pre-pave the way to college internships and full time employment. I was thinking that a really savvy intern would do well to leverage the heck out of this opportunity to network.
Considering the internship program got my brain firing (because traditional external networking brings to mind cringey, superficial chats with strangers at noisy happy hours, juggling business cards, hors d’oeuvres and a wineglass):
What if each of us networked inside our own companies intentionally?
Duh! A ready-made common ground + a shared mission.
So.Simple! Find and get to know people at your company who are outside your normal work trajectory. Get to know them via a committee or project, working shoulder-to-shoulder. Soon they’ll be able to vouch for your shining personality / skills / work ethic / impact. They’ll become a part of your true network, far more likely to help you if/when you need it (and hopefully, you’ll do the same for them!).
In a job that demands every second of your day, adding internal networking might be the last thing you’d choose. But I think getting to know others makes work more fun and rewarding. And who knows where those new connections will lead? So it’s a little bit selfish, in a good way. I’ve heard of folks who brilliantly (and often innocently) landed great new jobs and built amazing careers through internal networking. Maybe you have, too.
things you can do right now
(besides being great at your job, which speaks for itself):
- Volunteer to help anywhere it’s needed. Join committees of all kinds.
- Offer to research / document / investigate / figure out and report back.
- If something is wanted or needed but doesn’t yet exist, figure it out or create it.
- Invite someone you don’t know well to have coffee, eat lunch or go for a walk.
- Make introductions ~ help connect others. Inclusivity is IN!
In my first year at TCF Bank, I signed on for (almost) every opportunity that crossed my path: my department’s FUN committee, the IT Hackathon planning committee; IT book club, IT donut club, IT ambassador group, IT & Friends (volunteer) committee. I even launched a new club, the TCF Travel Junkies.
I didn’t think of it as internal networking at first ~ I just wanted to be a better cultural ambassador. I’ve never been part of so many initiatives before. The benefits? They’re plentiful: getting to know great people outside my department = more enjoyment! When I need an answer, it’s easier to find. Or when I want to get something done, I have a friendlier ear. I get to reciprocate, which also feels fantastic. Not to mention enjoying the results of our efforts. As far as stepping out of my comfort zone? It feels a little awkward at first. And then, it’s 100% satisfying.
“Your network is not people you know; your network is the people you know who are willing to help you.” ~~ Sol Orwell
A communication tool is helpful (we use Slack). A core group of networking-minded people helps — there are many in my company who are committed to fostering a collaborative culture. They generously share their connections and are a huge help & inspiration. But even if your company isn’t similarly inclined, you can (and should) branch out.
When you work alongside someone, you get to know them in a different way than if you’ve just chatted over drinks at some industry event. And since we (usually) have just one boss and one team of peers at a time, we exponentially increase the number of people who know our work when we work on initiatives and projects outside our our normal scope.
It takes extra time & effort to be involved, but it also saves time: answers come more quickly. Folks with whom I’ve worked on projects are more likely to jump in when I need help. There’s a sense of fun and camaraderie.
There’s still a ways to go before I know everybody, but the gap is narrower than if I just did my job day in and day out.
Some bad news: you’ll still need to occasionally attend external networking happy hours. But with intentional internal networking, you’ll need it less. So start building meaningful connections where you are. Get out of your office / cube / comfort zone and GET INVOLVED!!