How to Network Yourself Into a Better Position
For most professionals, “networking” typically refers to the professional activity of making meaningful connections with people outside of your own company, oftentimes with the explicit purpose of finding a new employer or new business opportunities.
But, did you realize that you could be networking right now, in your current position and that this could help you to advance your career? Networking is all about connecting with the right people and forging relationships that will be mutually beneficial. Internal networking, or networking at your current employer, can be a powerful tool for advancement, professional development, and growth. Here are things you can do in your current job to “network” yourself into a better position with your employer:
Have meaningful interactions with leadership
Hopefully these interactions will happen organically and in a natural setting, but it’s important to find ways to make yourself visible to your organization’s leadership, not just your immediate colleagues or bosses. This is one of the most important points of contact that you should find opportunities to network with as they will be able to advocate on your behalf for your advancement.
Look outside your own department
When you have a rich network of go-to people in your organization, especially if it is large, you have the advantage of being “connected” and, therefore, able to troubleshoot and problem-solve more quickly because you have a solid understanding of the resources available to you.
Working cross-functionally across teams, departments, and positions is a key driver for success in most companies today, so if you can make those personal connections and get to know the names and faces of as many people outside of your immediate team as possible, you’ll soon be so plugged in to your organization’s ecosystem that you’ll be able to work smarter and more efficiently, especially when problems arise. This will set you apart and prepare you for a more senior position.
Become a connector
This goes hand in hand with knowing the right resources to use. Once you’ve made all those connections in your company and are happily socializing, collaborating, and working across the organization, you can start to become a “connector.” Knowing how to bring people together and make relevant connections to accomplish wider goals for the company is a rare and valuable skill.
This requires taking the initiative and being truly concerned with (and aware of) what your colleagues are trying to accomplish or problems they’re trying to solve so you can find ways to facilitate meaningful connections that will help them get the job done. By coordinating successful collaborations, you’ll quickly be seen as a natural leader, a strategic problem solver, and someone who thinks outside the norm to solve big problems.
Master "small talk"
Networking internally at your current job is similar to conventional networking: you need to be adept at having natural, pleasant interactions with people, putting others at ease, giving a good impression, and creating a healthy back-and-forth dialogue that is interesting for both parties. Simply put, be friendly and make yourself open to pleasant office chit chat (not gossip or over-sharing). This is the best way to build your inter-office network.
Be open & honest about your goals
If your career goals include advancing into a higher position or salary bracket, find the right time to communicate your long-term plans to your boss. Frame the discussion in a positive way, highlighting all of the things you like about working for the company, while also communicating that you are excited to grow with them and would like to discuss a realistic timeline and action plan for that growth that works for everyone.
Happy hours, family days, holiday parties, volunteer projects, birthday celebrations… if you work in a company that promotes socialization and offers plenty of extracurriculars, try to attend all or as much as you’re able. This is a great way to get to know your colleagues outside of meetings and work conversations, and it’s an even better way to spend time with people you don’t work with directly.
The more connections you make in your organization, the more clued in you’ll be to changes or new opportunities that you might be interested in, and the easier it will be to work cross-functionally and be a “connector” among colleagues, all things that prime you for advancement.
Don’t miss too many meetings, especially when your company’s leadership is present. Maintain a visible presence, and don’t be shy to contribute your thoughts or suggestions when appropriate. If you consistently present yourself as engaged, enthusiastic, and actively working at building productive connections with your colleagues that will help to move the business forward, you’ll reap the benefits in your own career path.
Build up your colleagues
True leaders are comfortable acknowledging the successes and talents of others and don’t get let their competitiveness or insecurity get the better of them. If networking at work means creating meaningful connections with your colleagues that will raise the bar collectively across your team, department, and organization, one of the best ways to create these reciprocal relationships is to build other people up for their successes.