Barrier 1: Making an Effort with Your Network Is Self-Serving
This is especially true for those who hate the idea of organizational politics – the mere thought of networking with other senior leaders brings up images of fake laughter, backstabbing, and other behaviors that go against the value of being genuine. To be clear – there are plenty of people who do approach it that way.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Instead, you can look at internal networking as an opportunity to truly get to know people and find common ground. You don’t have to become their best friend, but you can connect over shared interests. Here are some other ideas to build the relationship authentically:
- Share your own vulnerabilities and/or mistakes.
- Explore hobbies, fun activities, family, what you do on the weekend, etc.
- Do little acts of kindness. (Find out what interests them and get them something without expecting anything in return.)
- Prioritize ongoing contact, even if it’s brief.
- Overcommunicate and be transparent.
- Realize you can’t win everyone right away, so start with the people who are most receptive.
Relationships are built over time, so take the time to build a genuine relationship founded on connection and trust. The key is to maintain regular contact so that you can become someone they want to help.
Barrier 2: Networking Is for Introverts, Too
The truth is, many standard networking events are built with extroverts in mind – public events with lots of people in loud settings. The problem with this is many people who are shy or introverted have wrongly concluded that cultivating a network is for extroverts only. But while those events do favor outgoing people, building genuine relationships is always done one-on-one.
So, if you are more introverted or shy, lean into your preferences and focus on creating opportunities for individual conversations. You can start small by:
- Inviting people for 1:1 “get to know you” conversations.
- Focusing on shared interests.
- Finding ways to help them.
- Focusing on asking questions and learning about their career, their values, passions, and what drives them.
The good news is you can start small, but as you start putting yourself out there, you’ll gain the self-confidence you need to eventually push your ideas forward as a leader. As you get more comfortable and build relationships with other leaders, the thought of talking to them as a group will slowly get less terrifying with each additional bond.
Barrier 3: If You’re Good at What You Do, You Don’t Need a Network
Many of us were raised with an older mindset of “if you put your head down and do the work, you’ll get noticed and rewarded eventually.” While this was true for a time, this is now an outdated viewpoint that’s not true in the majority of organizations.
If you want to be effective in your own workplace, being good at your job is, unfortunately, only half of the equation. You need to build relationships and your own personal brand through internal networking with others in the organization. That way you can be top of mind when opportunities come up. Or you can be seen as credible when you suggest a course of action or push back against ideas.
In order to be effective in building your internal network, you’ll need to be strategic. Identify key individuals in different departments and divisions. Be thoughtful and list out each department and who would be strategic to know in each department.
Find the key persons that hold both formal and informal power. For each person, do a deep dive to understand their goals/aspirations and what is important to them. Reflect on ways that you can bring value to them and help them reach their goals. Below is a link to a worksheet that you can use to strategize the key players you need to align yourself with and how to understand each of them.
[Follow this link to get fillable Strategic Relationships Worksheets]
Where Do We Go from Here?
Internal networking is the cornerstone of successful professional growth and success. It’s more than just social events and parties; it’s an important component of learning and opening doors to bigger and better possibilities. It’s also much more than fake laughter and backstabbing. By investing time and effort into building meaningful connections, you can not only enrich your own career trajectories but also improve your effectiveness and influence across your organization authentically.
Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned leader, remember that the strength of your internal network is directly proportional to the height of your potential. If you embrace networking with a strategic and open mindset, watch as your effectiveness increases one connection at a time.