Career 101: Networking Doesn’t Stop With the Job Offer
You probably know how important networking is to help you find a job. But what about networking on the job? Once you’ve been hired, it’s a good idea to turn your attention to internal networking. To find out more about this, we asked three seasoned career pros for on-the-job networking advice. They are:
- Laura Gonzalez, Executive Recruiter, CDM Search
- Wendy Nolin, Business and Career Coach, Change Agent Careers
- Christy Robb, Recruiter and Career Coach
Q: Why is it important to build rapport with new colleagues? What can it do for your career?
Internal networking is as important as external networking. Your ability to get your questions answered, make great impressions, build bridges between departments, seek out mentors and even sponsors to help you develop to the next level within the company begins with the genuine connections and friendships you create inside the company. That being said, it does not all happen in one day. Give yourself some grace to take the needed time to settle into your new role and build connections naturally at your own pace.
Rapport with new colleagues is no different than any other relationship. Your fellow team members will be more willing to do things for you and help you succeed once they know you, like you and trust you. And when they know you, like you and trust you, you most likely know, like and trust them too. It’s a win/win and is the keystone to your career advancement. No one climbs the ladder alone. We all need advocates and champions as well as TO BE advocates and champions for our fellow workers.
Internal networking is so important for your career. It will help you build bonds that make your day-to-day work life much more enjoyable, and enable you to find mentors that guide you in your career years down the line. If higher-ups become familiar with you, they’ll remember you at promotion time or layoff time, or if they move to a new role and need to fill positions.
Q: What are a few things you can do to network with new colleagues?
Connect with them on LinkedIn, find out their hobbies, interests, passions and maybe a big project they are working on. Find ways to support their project, show interest in common hobbies and passions, and invite them to attend events of interest or go to networking groups together. Invite them to lunch or coffee to get to know them and how you can support their career goals. Give before you expect to receive.
Asking great questions can be a powerful tool. It is often endearing to others when you ask for their guidance, and it shows your understanding of their unique position and value within the company. In addition, you will probably have to seek out your new colleagues for questions, especially at the beginning of your new job. Show gratitude and ask targeted questions as well as open-ended questions about a new colleague’s “day in the life” and their role. In addition, do not be shy to ask a few folks to lunch if that fits your schedule and the company culture. Take advantage of any voluntary projects or community involvement the company might offer as well.
You’ll notice at work that the same people stick together. In addition to these natural connections you’ll make, I recommend talking to people outside of your own group. Talk to people at a higher level than you or in different departments. Go to brown bag lunches or other events where you can meet people from other departments and introduce yourself. Ask people about what they do and how they got there. Look at the company’s organizational charts to get to know the internal reporting structure. Check the company Intranet for other information that could be useful. Ask a more senior person to lunch or coffee and get to know them on a professional level.
Q: How much can you share about your personal life?
Getting to know a colleague is a bit like professional dating. One would not reveal everything about their personal life on the first date, and similar decorum should be followed when getting to know colleagues. Start with surface information, basic knowledge and friendly exchange. These are essentially strangers who just happen to get a paycheck from the same people you do. Trust needs to be earned, so I suggest sticking to “Less is More” until you have gotten to know your colleagues better and trust has been earned and maintained.
Everyone gets to use their own judgment, though it is best to be genuine and friendly up front while remaining conservative about sharing personal details until or unless you determine that a few details shared with a few key close colleagues is acceptable to you. Just use good common sense when it comes to personal details that could somehow negatively, even accidentally, impact your work relationships or professional work role and environment.
At the beginning, avoid personal questions and oversharing. You never know what role the person next to you is going to play months or years down the line, so it’s better to be safe than sorry when mixing work and your personal life. It’s best to stick to work-related topics until you get to know people. Then you can ask about things you see pictures of at their desk, such as family or hobbies.
Q: What are some “Don’ts” of internal networking?
Don’t start by angling and pumping your colleagues for dirt on others or how to circumvent the system. Don’t express negativity or pass judgment on people or processes you’ve just been introduced to. Don’t try to one-up or outdo your fellow team members. Don’t ask questions that might embarrass or incriminate someone. Don’t compare someone else to you and to make them look bad. Don’t be a taker. Don’t ask someone else to do your work for you and then take the credit. And don’t avoid asking for help out of fear of looking stupid. You might be new, but you still don’t know the internal workings of the company yet.
Don’t get drunk with colleagues after work or at company parties. If you’re serious about your career, limit yourself to two drinks when you go out. Even if there’s peer pressure to drink a lot together, don’t give in. You’d rather be remembered as the person who was levelheaded than the person who did something stupid. Also, be careful what you share on social media. Recruiters look at it and so do your colleagues. Follow the company social media policies if there are any.
11 Questions To Get You Started Networking on the Job
We asked our experts to suggest some questions that a new employee can ask to break the ice. These questions will get you started.
- How long have you been with the company?
- What do you enjoy most about your job? About working here?
- Where did you work before?
- What has your career path been so far?
- In your opinion, who are some of the most positive and influential leaders here?
- How does your department connect and have fun? (take company culture in into account)
- What advice would you give someone starting out in my position or department?
- How long have you lived in that particular city or town?
- What networking groups do you go to?
- Are you a member of any professional associations?
- What’s your favorite place for lunch or happy hour?