Building a Professional Network in a New Company: Best Practices was originally published on uConnect External Content.
You’re new to a company, and you hardly know any of your colleagues.
At your previous organization, you got to know everyone in your department, as well as connected with folks in other sectors, but you feel adrift in your new role. You need to develop an internal professional network and fast.
Too often, we only think about networking when we’re job-seeking. While it’s true that somewhere around 85 percent of open jobs are filled through networking, you shouldn’t stop making connections once you’ve started your new role.
Internal professional networking – defined as making meaningful connections with your immediate and more distant colleagues – is necessary for many reasons. Forbes contributor Bianca Miller Cole lists a few of these, including:
- Knowing information. No workplace manual is complete enough to address every concern you might have, and you need coworkers who will answer your questions.
- Exchanging ideas. This is important to make sure you understand all facets of an issue and can problem-solve accordingly.
- Making yourself known. Just like in job-hunting, your peers may recommend individuals who they know have specific skills for projects or promotions.
- Understanding how your career can advance. If you’re new to an organization, you may not be aware of how your career can grow there or what credentials you’d need to reach your potential.
So, how can you expand your internal professional network when you’re new to a company? Here are some ideas.
Build relationships; don’t just connect with someone because you think they could help your career someday.
The difficulty of networking well is often deciding you’re “networking” could be your downfall.
If you interact with someone new at your company simply because you might need them for something someday, you’ll likely be unsuccessful at your actual task: building a new relationship. After all, that’s what a professional contact is at its core.
So, decide you’re going to make deep and wide connections with your colleagues at your organization. You want to have allies, mentors, and collaborators at your new company – not just people who can “help” you when you need something.
Participate in “optional” events, both virtual and in-person.
It’s much easier to make connections with your new colleagues if you’re available.
Even if you have other obligations with family or hobbies, make yourself open for social events both online and in-person, especially while you’re new at the organization.
If you never attend these get-togethers, your colleagues might perceive you as disinterested in getting to know you. What’s more, they might not invite you to get-to-know-you meetings they might otherwise have with new hires if they perceive you as unapproachable.
Connect with your new colleagues in one-on-one or small group meetings.
After you start making your presence known in get-togethers, you can start inviting your colleagues to meet with you one-on-one or in small groups.
For instance, if you click with a colleague at a happy hour function, you could invite them for coffee the next time you’re both in the office together. Or you could invite three colleagues to a Zoom meeting if you want information about how a certain process usually takes place at your new company.
Make sure you let your new coworkers know what you want out of the meeting. It’s fine to say something as straightforward as, “We’re going to be working together a lot, so I want to get to know you better!”
However, if you want to talk about something specific, be sure to tell them in advance so they can prepare.
Ask questions you sincerely want to be answered.
Some less-than-successful networkers use meetings to “butter up” their contacts or ask questions they don’t sincerely want to be addressed. Instead, come prepared to your meeting with authentic inquiries and a strong sense of the direction you want your conversation to take.
“Focus your request on expanding your business knowledge, not advancing your personal objectives. If you’re simply out to meet the top executives from all of your company’s global locations, you’re not going to build meaningful relationships, and you’ll leave people with the wrong impression of your intentions.
Think of legitimate business-related topics that could spark a conversation,” said UNC-Kenan-Flagler.
Aim to be useful to your new contacts.
Once you start using your internal professional network for advice, recommendations, and the like, be sure you’re available to be equally useful to them.
In other words, it’s bad form to simply take from your colleagues rather than envisioning ways to repay them.
“It’s also important to give more than you take. Keep ‘topping up’ your relationships. Be genuine. People will regard you as a helpful, positive presence in their life and will be happy to see you. They’ll be much more inclined to give you their time and help you out when you need it,” wrote Victorio Duran III for Vault.
Sometimes, it will be obvious how you can help your coworkers, or they’ll ask for what they need from you. Other times, you could offer your assistance.
For instance, you might say, “I heard that you’re applying for a promotion, and I’d be happy to be a reference for you.”
The Necessity of an Internal Professional Network
To be a strong networker, conceive of your task as getting to know your coworkers.
So, attend get-togethers as much as possible, connect with colleagues with whom you have a genuine connection, and ask them questions you sincerely want to know. What’s more, ensure your relationship is reciprocal by being useful and helpful to your new contacts whenever possible.
Want more advice about why “networking” to find a new job might be your Achille’s heel? Read this article from Columbia Business School to learn more.