No matter the size and shape of your organization, you will benefit from networking with other employees. Networking will help you survive in your job in tough times, it can help you get support for completing your own projects and it will boost your career.
Countless talented CEOs, managers and other employees have found that being good at their job isn’t enough to get noticed and valued. They needed to promote themselves for best results. Your organization will benefit as well because networking will help you do your job better.
If senior management notice you they will put you in the fast lane to a successful career path. You will be invited to the right meetings and functions, others will ask for your input and you will be perceived as having political weight.
Create a ‘bank of goodwill’
Like many aspects of communication, you need to invest the time in setting your network before you actually need it in order to create your ‘bank of goodwill.’
If you astutely circulate with influential employees and let them know in a tactful way about the good work you are doing, you will be perceived at least as being competent and at most an expert at what you are doing. This is not blowing your own trumpet so much as communicating with them about your activities and finding ways to connect with them about their work as well so you can offer suggestions if they are receptive.
Internal networking is easier to do than external networking:
- You have easier access to people.
- You have more reciprocation opportunities.
- You can more easily brief others on your activities.
- Internal networking is more likely to be done within normal working hours.
- You will find you have more in common with your fellow workers because you know more about them from the networking activities.
What sort of networking can you do?
You can start by networking informally, but do set out with a plan. Firstly, think about your goals and then consider the employees whose influence can help you achieve what you want to achieve. Develop a list of those people and initiate an informal stakeholder relations program with them.
Do you feel awkward about this mercenary approach to your career path? Many people do. But the answer is that you have to network to pave the way for your own progression. Your career can’t be left to chance and the goodwill of others. Quite often, the others who you think would say a good word about you at the right time are likely to say nothing because they see you as a competitor to their own career path.
Sources of power help your networking
US studies have found that that people’s sources of power tend to come from the control of:
- a resource
- a technical skill
- formal attributes inherent in their organizational position
- access to those who have one or more of the above
You might like to think about the people who have these attributes that can help your career.
Tips for networking
Lean towards positive people; don’t allow your positive attitude get dragged down by negative people.
Ask these people one-on-one to have a coffee or lunch chat with you to discuss your project, their project or work in common. You can build in social chat as you go.
You could arrange an informal lunch group to meet periodically to discuss aspects of common work, or just to chat informally.
You could invite others to make presentations to your work group about their relevant project work.
Ask the opinions of these people. I have found from my own experience that people are invariably generous with their time and advice if you approach them nicely, especially with compliments about their work. In fact, psychological studies by Professor Robert Cialdini have shown that people like flattery even when they know it is false.
If you ask the opinions of a particular senior person regularly you could start to consider them as your mentor. You will need to use your judgment as to whether you ask them directly to mentor you or not as this takes your new relationship to a new, more formal level.
Run informal networking activities
If you run events or groups your influence will be strengthened. The types of events you could organize are:
- Regular lunches – you can organize an informal monthly lunch network, inviting people from other divisions and getting one person each month to talk about their work to the group.
- Dinners – you can arrange social dinners after work on a Friday night with employees whose company you enjoy – positive people who have positioned themselves well internally.
- Loose breakfast and lunch get-togethers.
- Cocktail functions. If you are a communicator you would be good at organizing cocktail functions in your area after work to mark significant work milestones or to invite guest speaker each time.
- Conferences, dinners with partners, golf days, client visits, hosting internally in the organization’s corporate box at sporting or arts events.
- You could organize a social or networking page in the corporate intranet or internal newsletter. You could arrange for group bookings to concerts, sporting events and other entertainment.
Be mindful of others who might consider themselves your rivals. And if you want to involve networking with higher-level managers, it would be prudent to do this one-to-one at first so that you don’t have positioning issues with others if you invite the higher-level people to your informal get-togethers.
If you are interested in cultivating someone you don’t know very well, especially if they are higher up, you could consider contact through a third party, a person in common.
When attending internal functions, make sure you mix with people outside your own workgroup as well as with your colleagues. This will help you widen your circle. Showing an interest in them will pay off.
How to break the ice with others
The easy way is to show an interest in them by asking questions about them, starting with any work aspects you are aware of or have in common. Then you can extend to family, hobbies, recreation etc.
Being a good listener is a key skill in this situation. By asking follow-up questions you will demonstrate to the other person that you are genuinely following what they are saying and not gazing around the room to see who else you could speak to next.
Don’t become a gossip in order to cultivate friendships with others. Although you are likely to be perceived as having your finger on the pulse, others won’t respect you for idle gossip and rumor-mongering. Therefore, be discreet about sensitive information. If in doubt, don’t say anything about it.
If you invest in internal networking you will find over time that the relationships you form will be invaluable in various ways. So go to it!