Most people think networking is about connecting with those beyond their place of work to expand their professional circle. And while this is a very important aspect of networking, it overlooks one obvious opportunity — internal networking, or networking at your own company.
In this article, we’ll offer tips and advice on how to successfully network at the office as a young professional, as well as talk about why internal networking is so important.
Why Is Internal Networking Important?
You’ve cleared your interview, landed the job, and are starting to settle in. Now, you may think the networking is over. However, for proper assimilation, it’s best to start with your own co-workers.
- Forges relationships with similar professionals
Internal networking is not only a great way to help you feel more settled and learn your way around, but it also provides you with many opportunities without going to extreme lengths. You’re connecting with the people you work with every day, so they are more likely to relate and want to help you succeed because you’re all on the same team.
- Boosts opportunities for advancement
Networking internally can help you build new skills, explore new areas of interest without much risk, and build up your reputation at the office. Why seek to network to go elsewhere when you can more easily network and move up within the company you already work for? This is much easier to do and comes with fewer risks.
- Enhances interdepartmental communication
Interdepartmental communication is also highly beneficial to companies as a whole. The more people work together across departments and teams, the more efficient and productive workflow becomes. It also creates more transparency, builds more trust between teams, and helps avoid conflict.
Tips for Internal Networking as a Young Professional
For some, socializing and networking with others come easily. For others, it’s more of a struggle, especially if you’re new to the professional world and are still finding your footing. The tips and advice below can help as you navigate your new role and seek to network with others within your own company.
1. Connect in Person
It might seem more intimidating to just walk up to someone you don’t know at your company and strike up a conversation, but this is one of the top ways to network. If you are a young professional, you might feel more comfortable with digital interactions because you have grown up with technology and the internet. But, connecting face-to-face can be much more effective for networking than shooting someone an email or a message in the company chat app.
Your colleagues are more likely to remember you and feel comfortable reaching out to you again if you strike up a conversation with them in person. This feels more genuine and shows that you aren’t afraid to put yourself out there.
2. Offer Something in Return
If you are networking because you need something, a good rule of thumb is to offer something in return. If all you do is go around asking for favors without offering help or assistance to others, people are going to be less likely to continue viewing you as a good connection.
So if you ask that person in IT for help with something, let them know how much you appreciate it and offer them your help in return if they ever need it. Offering help to others in your office after you’ve asked for something shows them that you aren’t just out for yourself, and it can show them your own abilities and what you are capable of.
3. Find Common Ground and Prioritize Relationship-building
One of the best ways to network with your colleagues is to first bond with them over a shared interest. So instead of just walking right up to someone you don’t know and asking for a favor, work on establishing a genuine connection with them first.
This can be work-related or even something personal as long as it is workplace appropriate. For example, job anxiety is something a lot of people share in common. This can include feeling anxious about returning to work after the pandemic, making a good impression, or completing a big project or work task. Across the board, levels of anxiety have risen since the pandemic. So if you are feeling anxious at work, you are likely not the only one. This is potentially even a good ice-breaker conversation.
You can also connect and bond over more lighthearted things, like pets or bicycle commuting. There is no one right way to initially connect with someone you want to network within your office. But the goal should always be genuine relationship-building as opposed to only reaching out because you need something.
4. Be Mindful of How You Communicate
When connecting with someone you don’t know yet from your office, make sure you are mindful of how you speak to them to avoid saying something that might offend them. Companies are becoming increasingly diverse, as they should — but this means you need to be mindful of differences and respect the identities of others.
The last thing you want when trying to network is to make a bad first impression because you weren’t aware of cultural differences or personal beliefs and preferences. Make sure you are aware when you are communicating cross-culturally or speaking to someone who has other preferences or beliefs that are different from yours. If you’re unsure, the best way to prevent miscommunication is to ask. Showing a genuine interest in respecting their preferences goes a long way.
If you make a mistake or fail to connect with someone, don’t be afraid to apologize or try again. Be patient when connecting with your own colleagues. Networking internally is easier, but it’s also wise not to push someone and then end up creating a conflict where you work.
And remember, don’t just network with people in your own department. For example, advancing your technical knowledge and skills can help career longevity. So don’t be afraid to network and learn something from someone in IT, even if that’s not your forte or part of your current job description.
There are numerous networking opportunities right in your own office. And if you put genuine time and effort into building those relationships, it can significantly improve your value within the company while still helping you expand your professional network.