Size Matters: Internal Networking at Large Companies
By: Itzik Amiel, Bestselling Author of ‘The Attention Switch’; Founder & CEO, Power Networking Academy & Michael Soto, Co-Founder of Spark Collaboration
It’s the morning rush and a flood of your coworkers are walking into the office building with you. Despite working at the same company, most are complete strangers. As the elevator fills up and the doors close, several buttons are pushed 2, 5, 11, 15. Many of these floors you have not been on for months, if at all. Finally, as you get off, things begin to take on an increasingly familiar feeling as you approach your desk.
While large companies can seem overwhelming for a would-be networker, they also present tremendous opportunity.
Yet most people do not bother to make the time to get to know their colleagues in other departments, on other floors and even less so those in separate buildings.
Instead of focusing your energies just on “happy hour” networking events, make sure to remember the benefits of internal networking that come with the built in benefit that you already have a commonality to begin building a relationship.
And even if you don’t know each other, working at the same company means that you are more likely to have people and projects in common.
If you work for a company with many employees, you need to figure out a way to meet, connect and add value to a broad range in your time working for that company.
Now that you’re onboard with internal networking, you may be asking where do I start? Who should I approach in my company?
First, let us highlight two broad approaches that you can use in a complimentary fashion.
1. Serendipity Networking
The first approach we call: “Serendipity Internal Networking.”
Let us explain.
When someone first crosses your path it is rarely clear what might come of it in the future. The person you help today may repay the favor tomorrow in an unexpected manner.
While some choose to focus their attention on ‘influential’ people, they miss out on building relationships with the up and coming as well as the gatekeepers, those unsung heroes that are often more important than CEOs.
They may be chance encounters, but putting your energy into being kind, supportive and helpful is a strategic move for your long term success within and outside the company.
2. Structured Networking
The second approach for internal networking is more common, and here we call it, “Structured Internal Networking”.
Keeping your eyes open for ways to help others in your day to day is not enough, you need to actively look to build some relationships in a very structured way.
Remember all growth comes from outside your comfort zone.
So here are seven specific strategies to make the most from working at a large company.
(a) Make Target Lists
Consider developing 3 lists to guide your efforts and set a goal for yourself, like lunch with someone new every week or three times a month:
- List 1 – People within the company that you know and would like to learn from
- List 2 – People within the company that you don’t know but that you have heard of and would like to get connected to them and learn from them.
- List 3 – Alumni, your company’s former employees who will have a unique perspective being able to share their perspective from outside.
(b) Set Goals
Once you have developed your three lists, set goals for yourself.
You may aim to meet a new person each week or 3 a month depending upon your particular situation.
Don’t restrict yourself to the people in your building or even city, it is easy to set up a video chat. Regardless of how you meet, the key point is to give value to the other person.
(c) Add Value on a Regular Basis
There are many different ways of giving value, precisely because each person is so unique.
In our notification overloaded society, often times sincere interest and attention in the other is a very special way to provide value.
Let us give a simple example.
Imagine one of your colleagues reached out to you and said they were impressed by your expertise and wanted to learn from your success.
Most people will feel flattered and will be happy to grab coffee or lunch with you.
There are many ways to provide significant value to others without requiring you to climb the Himalayas!
(d) Start Early
Don’t wait until your first day at the company to get to know your co-workers.
The earlier you start the better head start you will have on the list of people you can possibly meet at the company.
(e) Ask for Introductions & Recommendations
When you have lunch with someone, make sure to ask for introductions to other colleagues within the company.
You can also ask for recommendations of people who you should have lunch with.
This way you will more quickly meet the most interesting people within your company, maybe have lunch with them, but certainly get connected.
This is a very powerful strategy since you can leverage the relationships the other person has developed within the company.
It will enable you to ping the recommended person without hesitation and tell them that “…recommended that I should get lunch with you.”
This makes it almost impossible for them to say no to you.
(f) Meet a variety of people
Try to meet different people from different areas and departments within the company (and even jurisdictions, in case the company has more than one location).
Thus, you will know more about what is going on within the company. And as you already know, knowledge is power.
Furthermore, different people have different skills, and that is always useful.
(g) Build Quality Connections Rather than Quantity
Finally, always remember that your focus should be quality over quantity.
Once you have broken the ice and connected with someone, make sure to continue working on building that relationship over time. By being consistent and authentic, others will trust you more and more over time.
A LAST WORD
So are you convinced now that size of your company does matter when networking and building relationships internally in the company?
There are clear benefits:
First, it will help you learn from others within and outside the company, and facilitate getting connected to the right people within your company and get advance in your career.
Second, your personal brand within the company will grow enormously. Thus, it will have a direct effect on your career growth within (and outside) the company.
Third, You will build your own influence within the company. Your opinion and ideas will be considered more seriously.
Lastly, you can also make new friends.
Who said networking isn’t fun?
Is there a topic that you would like us to elaborate on further for our next post? What to say when meeting someone new? How to provide value through connecting others? Drop either of us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.