How To Network Within Your Company
Some of our best allies and mentors are people within our walls. How to form a meaningful relationship with that colleague on the seventh floor.
Over the past nine years Brittany has spent at a media company in New York, she's held eight jobs. There was the year of being the assistant to the top editor, the blog editing role in Asia, and the senior mobile editor gig. Each time, the moves came pretty easily, if not naturally, because she heard about many of the positions from colleagues before they officially were posted. "I know everyone here," she says.
Brittany has become a master in-house networker, pinging new hires to inquire about their vision for the company and asking co-workers to coffee after learning they're both alums of Indiana University. And the company softball team she joined years ago to help her get to know people within the company? She's now captain of it. (The team has started the season 1-0.) "The best way to be able to move around and move up is to know as many people as possible," she says. "You have to be deliberate and seek people out."
When we think of networking, we often imagine cocktail hours and conferences with people outside the office. But some of the best resources to help us climb the career ladder can be sitting a few feet or floors away, says Katy Caselli, an organizational psychologist in North Carolina and founder of the corporate training firm Building Giants. While your colleagues and higher-ups may not turn into formal mentors, you glean a visual of who is succeeding at the firm and can target those people-as opposed to not knowing if the person you want to meet outside the office is a superstar trader or a complete dud.
Networking in-house, though, is quite the minefield. For one, you can't come off as someone who wants to take over that person's job (even if you really want to). And if something goes wrong, there's a decent chance you may run into that person, whether it be in the elevator or in the restroom.
Start by identifying people you'd like to meet-and know why you want to meet them. Does she seem to have a lot of institutional knowledge because she's worked across four different departments? Or is he new, but close to the boss, and could help you gain insight into the company's thinking? Look for people who could expose you to parts of the company that you don't know much about in your current role, or who could help you figure out your place within the firm, career consultants say.
Once you've figured out your targets, be specific in what you ask. "Don't waste the person's time by asking them to pour out all their wisdom," Caselli says. "Instead, say you'd like to meet to ask them about handling a certain obstacle or understanding the way a particular work group functions."
From there, career coaches say to keep things casual by asking for a quick lunch in the office cafeteria or to grab some coffee. And while it's typical to bond over similarities-like the mutual boss you both had who liked tapping his foot against his desk constantly-be mindful of what you share. Say enough to get connected, but you don't want go on and on to the point of turning the networking opportunity into a pure venting session, consultants say.
For Brittany, she's used common threads to reach out: the editor who also did a stint in Asia, the intern who is a fellow Hoosier, the social media manager who attended the same digital media workshop as her. But she's also very aware that she needs to offer these people something, whether it's as simple as how to access the cumbersome online payroll system (a thorn for many new hires) or connecting them with someone within her growing network. "Often these questions don't require a lot of my time and my energy but they can make a huge difference and are very rewarding for the other person," Brittany says.
Ultimately, that's the trick to making networking within your walls work: Figure out what motivates the person-money, purpose, work-life balance-and speak their language, Caselli says. After all, you won't connect if you're talking about something you're not interested in yourself.