Why You Need an Internal Networking Plan (and how to create one)

professional women networking internallyI’ve been working with a lot of clients lately that have forgotten about the need to sell themselves internally – to their teams, their bosses, and their co-workers. I get it. It’s easy to forget that you need to keep your colleagues as happy as you keep your clients or external network. But let me urge you to keep your internal network nice and fresh and to stay interested in your colleagues just as you are interested in those outside of your workplace.

But why?

Perspective

Much like the benefits of general networking, internally networking helps keep your working world big. What I mean is, just like it’s easy to lose perspective and forget about the world outside of work – which makes life quite difficult when things at work aren’t going well – it’s easy to forget about the bigger picture, mission, or purpose of your workplace when you’re only considering your personal work or your team – which makes work quite difficult when things aren’t going well with your team or in your department.

Bottom line? Whether at work or outside of work, making your world bigger will help with fulfillment when your smaller world isn’t going so well.

Performance

When you understand what’s happening outside of your department, you are inevitably better at your job. It also helps minimize frustrations to understand where other people you work with are coming from when you have to work with them in the future.

I recently had a client close a big project, and she expressed the frustration she felt given her role between her organization’s attorney and her client. When I asked her if she understood whether the attorney was frustrated as well, she told me she didn’t. Enter: Homework (my favorite part of coaching!). I gave her an assignment to reach out to the attorney, take him to lunch, and see if they can understand where they were both coming from and make the process smoother the next time.

Because I only work with wonderful people, of course she did her homework and reported back with great results. Not only did they hit it off sharing in their joint frustrations about the deal, but they discussed how to get around those hurdles in the future so the next time would be more productive and less frustrating for everyone involved – including (and especially!) the client.

Usually, understanding where your colleagues outside of your team are coming from can help you do your job better and collaborate on strategies going forward.

I get it – now what?

If you’re bought into the fact that internal networking can help with your career and satisfaction, you’re probably wondering how to get started. Here are some simple tips to get you started. If you’re still struggling, sign up for a session with me to discuss how coaching can help develop an internal (and external!) networking plan that works for you!

Reflect

Before you dive in, let’s make sure you have a strategy (since, after all, developing a career strategy is probably why you’ve landed on my page). Take some time to identify the people you’d like to connect with at work. On this list, you should include the following:

  • Those you’ve worked with in the past, but don’t know that well or understand what they do;
  • Those you’ve worked well with in the past, but because of different projects or priorities, you’ve lost touch;
  • Those you’ve worked with in the past that you didn’t work well with – assuming it wasn’t for personal reasons and didn’t result in irreparable relationship harm
  • Someone you’ve never worked with, but get along with otherwise (or think you’d get along with otherwise)
  • People in roles you find interesting and want to learn more about
  • Bosses, managers, and execs that are “higher up” the chain than you in roles you think you might like to pursue

Really – it doesn’t matter. But make the list exhaustive, and include everyone at work that you’d like to get to know or understand better – for whatever reason. You can cull later.

Prepare

Before embarking on your internal discovery mission, do some prep work. Create a list of questions for each person on your list so you don’t make the tragic mistake of asking someone out for a coffee or lunch with no real purpose or direction.

Beyond just getting to know them better, you should try to understand their motivations at work when you take them out. Understanding their motivations will help you understand the bigger picture at work and will shift your perspective and improve your performance.

If it’s someone in a role you think you’d like to pursue someday, ask them how they got where they are. Ask them about what roles they were in before, and where they made major jumps in their career. Ask what they did to get where they are, and maybe by the end of your coffee or lunch, you will have acquired a new mentor or sponsor to speak up for you when it comes time for promotion.

Scheduleprofessional woman making connections at work

With your list and your prep work done, it’s time to schedule your meeting! Send an email, pick up the phone, or – gasp! – swing by their desk. Ask if they’d like to grab a coffee or lunch sometime and then get it on the calendar!

When you do show up – just start asking questions! Ease into it – how are you, what’s going on? No one wants to be bombarded out of nowhere with “So, what do you do, really?” But – people do generally love talking about themselves, and the more questions you ask, the more you’ll learn and the better your budding relationship will be.

Follow up

Finally, don’t just let these meetings be a “one and done” situation. Keep it up! Make a goal to have lunch or coffee with someone at your organization but outside of your team once a week – or every other week – or once a month – whatever works for you! But pick a goal and stick to it, and see how your fulfillment and relationships at work grow!

I’ve seen clients decide to stay where they are when they otherwise wanted to quit based on their internal networking plans. I’ve also had clients get major recognition from “people that matter” just by reaching out to others, sharing their experience, and getting to know the struggles of others in their organization.

If you’re still not sure where to start, schedule a free consult with me to discuss your career goals and strategy for moving forward. Knowing your long term plan is the first step toward making the right step today, so what are you waiting for?

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