The benefits of networking with peers outside your organization are many, but making connections with those who have similar interests and work at similar companies is only the first step in building a network. Now think internally: How can you leverage the inside network of your current company? Your coworkers are just as valuable to have in your network. This may sound obvious, but many of us (including me) don’t step outside the comfort of our own work teams often enough.
What Is Inside Networking?
Inside networking is when you build connections with your coworkers to create value within your company, which in turn can help you advance your career. Many professionals turn to outside contacts for research and advice, but connecting with people who know your company from within can be beneficial in many ways. You can gain insight into projects that other departments are working on, advice on projects you’re working on, and knowledge about a specific product or service you might have questions about.
Not only will you learn more about your company’s products and services, but you’ll also open lines of communication between departments. Use this to your advantage to work cross-functionally. In talking about your day-to-day job, you might realize that a tool that someone else is using might also help in your work. In turn, this might help you learn new analytic skills, for example.
Another benefit to connecting with your coworkers is learning about what they actually do. A job title might be misleading, or the job description might have changed silently. Knowing about others’ day-to-day work is helpful if you need assistance with a specific project, ultimately smoothing company processes.
How Do You Start?
Try to connect with people at all levels of your company, but you can start by getting to know the people who work closest to you and in departments around you. If you usually eat lunch at your desk, ask a coworker or a group of coworkers to eat with you. During a meeting, sit at a table with people you’ve never met or talked to before to get to know them and learn about their perspectives.
At IMA Headquarters, we have a café space where we eat lunch and hold meetings. Staff take advantage of this open space to participate in interdepartmental mingling and getting to know their colleagues. This fosters the feeling of unity and becoming a tight-knit team.
Don’t be intimidated to talk to your superiors. If they don’t walk around the office often or make many public appearances, request a face-to-face meeting to get noticed. This may lead to a nomination to join a leadership committee or even to a promotion. Taking the initiative to connect with people on the chain of command will highlight your personality attributes and can help you grow.
A Benefit For You and Your Company
Inside networking can help you grow both personally and professionally as you expand your network, develop stronger communication and team skills, and plan your future. It will also be a benefit to your organization as you become a more valuable employee with cross-functional connections. For some, inside networking may seem daunting because stepping out of their comfort zone to network with colleagues is something new, but taking that next step can pay off greatly for you in the future.
How are you leveraging your inner network? Do you connect with people in your company who you don’t see often?
Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney