We all know how important it is to maintain and grow your network as a successful professional. Most of the time though, we’re talking about growing your external network outside of your own organization in the larger community.
Many people don’t stop and think about internal networking – that is, networking inside their own company – but it can turn out to be just as important. As you get to know the work life of your colleagues throughout your organization and they learn what you do, the entire organization benefits.
Benefits of building your networking inside your company.
- You’ll learn how different departments function. With a better understanding of the big picture, you will make on-point global decisions within your own department.
- It’s an opportunity to get invited to cross-functional department meetings. When your colleagues from other departments understand your department better, they’ll make more well-rounded decisions that could positively affect your team.
- You’ll build trusted allies. When you need to reach out to other departments to problem-solve, it helps to already have a positive rapport with those outside your immediate circle at work.
- You’ll become the go-to person for your group or department. It never hurts to be seen as an expert! When opportunities or interesting projects pop up in the future, you’ll be first on everyone’s mind.
The nuts and bolts of internal networking.
- At least once a week, schedule lunch with someone you don’t know well in your company. When you’re at lunch with them, be sure to put your phone away, make plenty of eye contact, listen, and be inquisitive. If things feel a little stiff, treat your colleague the way you’d treat a friend or family member you are genuinely interested in. After your lunch, make sure you follow up with a thank-you email. If you offered to send her a specific article or she offered to introduce you to someone, it’s great to mention it in this follow-up email.
- At least once a week, schedule touch-base time with your network. This should happen when you don’t need something from the person. Sometimes, circumstances will present the perfect opening – for example, when someone gets a promotion, award or other achievement, send over a quick congratulatory email. This can also work well when coworkers get married or have children.
- Jump onboard for internal and external events and trainings. It’s a great opportunity to get to know colleagues from other departments and make valuable connections. Especially if you’re involved in the planning process, you’ll see your colleagues much more often than you would at the office as you interact with them on a personal level. This will help you to learn more about your colleague and it’s definitely part of the internal networking process.
- When you’re in meetings, praise other teammates’ contributions in front of your colleagues. You want to be known as a team player who’s never afraid to share credit.
- Become a connector yourself. Embrace any chances to introduce people throughout your organization. Helping others connect always feels rewarding.
- Whenever there’s an opportunity, ask how you and your team can better support others. Have a helpful attitude and it will come back to you. You’ll also be seen as a generous and effective colleague, and you’ll benefit for years to come!
Remember, we’re all busier than ever these days, so you’ll often need to keep your office interactions on the shorter side. But as your network begins to expand and grow, you’ll come across more and more interesting ways to connect. You’ll feel more tuned in to your organization and more content with your professional life overall.