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Story Archive > ISHR By-Lined Articles > Looking Inside… Networking Internally - by Monique Dearth Honaman

Looking Inside… Networking Internally

   By Monique A. Dearth — ExecuNet CareerSmart Advisor

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A man approached me as I finished a keynote presentation on the importance of personal networking and exposure in the workplace. He told me he was living proof that people need to spend time developing their connections inside work just as much as they develop their external connections with clients and prospective customers. It turns out that he had recently been downsized from his organization, where he was a field sales leader. He prided himself on a strong work ethic and the fact that his customers loved him, but he was a virtual unknown within the walls of his own company. When he was cut, his immediate manager told him that he just didn’t have enough top-level support or sponsorship within the organization: people didn’t know who he was!

Many books and articles have been written about the importance of external networking. We focus on building those “business card exchanging” opportunities where we have opportunity after opportunity to deliver our perfectly rehearsed elevator speech in hopes of making the ultimate connection with someone who turns out to be the next big client. I speak frequently about the importance of having all the pieces of the P.I.E. — Performance, Image and Exposure. Of course, exposure is your personal visibility and branding program that encompasses both external and internal networking.

What about the importance of networking internally? Networking not to land your next big client and close that big sale, but networking to develop your reputation and become a known entity within your own organization. I’m talking about the kind of networking that builds your brand in an organization and develops your sponsors. I’m talking about building connections with people who will go to bat for you and always give you sage advice. I’m talking about building the kinds of relationships that will create long-term opportunities and open doors that might otherwise stay closed.

We heavily focus on external networking... participating in network groups, sales groups, trade shows, associations, and the like, but are we paying so much attention to external networking to the detriment of not being networked enough internally? I challenge you to take a look at your calendar. How many times in the last month have you scheduled time to attend a lunch meeting to get to know people associated with a trade group or a networking group in which you are involved? More importantly, how much time have you dedicated to getting to know people within your own office? Are these numbers different, and if so, why?

Benefits of Building an Internal Network

Clearly, building your internal network and developing some sponsors has benefits beyond just keeping your name off a reduction-in-force list. Think about it. We all know the benefit of a referral. Whether it’s looking for a new restaurant, or going to see a movie, we typically prefer to act on someone else’s recommendation. Knowing that someone else vouches for a particular restaurant or movie makes us more likely to try that referral.

The same is true in the people game. The more people who know you, the more internally networked you are, the better chance you have of being connected into opportunities, situations and projects that you might otherwise not be aware of. The more people who know you, the better your chances of having new opportunities and experiences brought your way.

It is not simply the quantity of people with whom you are networked that is important; rather, the quality of this network is just as critical. If a large number of people know you, and they all think of you as selfish, arrogant and dishonest, then it seems obvious that your internal network will work against you. It is critical as you build your internal network — which is really building your reputation — that it is built upon a solid foundation of values.

Strategies for Building an Internal Network

Internal networking is also different from the proverbial brown-nosing. Internal networking must be altruistic. No one wants to feel they are being schmoozed for some other person’s gain. Just as with external networking, and perhaps even more importantly, internal networking has to be sincere. It has to occur with the intent to build a symbiotic relationship. No one appreciates feeling used, and that kind of approach is often easy to see through.

Internal networking is not simply an “upstream” maneuver. With rapid change as a cornerstone in the workplace today, it is smart to network yourself across all spans — up, down and across — within your own department and across functional lines. As quickly as things change in the name game, it’s important to not become known as an individual who only manages up at the detriment of building relationships across and down.

Perhaps the most important strategy for successful internal networking is to cast a wide net. In today’s turbulent economic times, it would be silly to place all of your money in a single investment. Similarly, in today’s turbulent workplace, it would be silly to rely on one or two key relationships while ignoring the nourishment and development of others. We cannot become complacent in continuing to build our network.

It’s dangerous to have the mindset of being able to coast in the challenge of internal networking simply because of a comfort level with whom you are already networked. It’s amazing how many times I have seen leaders on a fast track suddenly fall off that track, leaving their network gasping for air, and trying to figure out what just happened. Their support team is gone in an instant, and suddenly they are an unknown. Their sponsorship, their inside track, has just ended. What now?

The adage, “out of sight, out of mind” is true. We need to ensure that we make internal networking a key part of our work ethic. It is not something that just happens. To develop properly, it takes focus, a commitment of time, and the desire to build meaningful relationships.

Five Strategies for Successful Internal Networking

  1. Both quantity and quality are important.
  2. Be meaningful and intentional. No one likes to be used.
  3. Networking down and across is as critical as networking up.
  4. Cast a wide net. Don’t limit yourself to a few key relationships.
  5. Make time for internal networking. It should be an intended action.

Last Updated 6 Year(s) ago