The savvy professional knows that networking is a crucial element in building a long and fruitful career. Forging new relationships is a great way to stay abreast of interesting discussions and hot topics, learn relevant skills and expertise that aren’t encountered on a daily basis, garner input on challenging issues and offer wisdom in return. Most importantly, however, judicious networking affords an excellent opportunity for advancement, putting a name and skill set strongly in the mind of a potential recruiter or hirer. And yet, despite its importance, many potential prospects for promotion fail to build their network in the most accessible and potentially lucrative place: their own company. Here are five ways to help you move upward while staying right where you are.
1. Put social media to work.
Tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter have made it easier than ever to meet and stay in touch with interesting and influential people in your field, regardless of distance. Establishing online relationships with people in your company may seem unnecessary, especially with people you see every day, but the power of those connections extends far beyond. If a friendship through social media is similar in many respects to the traditional swapping of business cards, then today’s business card keeps you apprised of upcoming events, offers regular insight into the thoughts of colleagues and superiors, and reaches out to other potentially even more influential contacts.
2. Make your own meeting opportunities.
Some office environments are ideal for getting to know others in the firm. Regular mixers, cross-disciplinary brainstorming sessions and interconnected operations all create natural opportunities to meet with people outside your immediate circle and learn the lessons you need to advance. That setup isn’t always available, though, and when it isn’t, it’s up to you to make connections yourself. Stepping out of your own office to meet people in other departments is an avenue to educate yourself about other operations in the company, and allows colleagues to see you as someone with widespread interests and curiosity about the way that different goals intersect in support of the overall mission.
3. Find yourself a mentor.
The value of pairing an experienced executive with a less-weathered newcomer is so great that many companies have built specific mentoring programs. However, some organizations limit whom they allow to participate in these formalized programs, reserving the energy that goes into mentoring a prospective leader for a select few. If you find yourself in such a company, that doesn’t mean you are closed out entirely. It simply means you will need seek out someone on your own. For companies that have no mentoring program at all, you can play an active role in trying to get one set up, which is another opportunity to be noticed by people in a position to help you down the line.
4. Network in both directions.
As important as it is to establish solid and meaningful relationships with those above you, it is equally important to maintain good relations with those lower down the chain. Any connection has potential to provide key information or an introduction to a potential resource, so it’s smart to develop a broad range of contacts. Colleagues in support roles on the organizational chart – receptionists, administrators, assistants – have access to some of the juiciest (and for you, most lucrative) information around, while co-workers in junior positions have the potential to rise up through the ranks and become a boss or employer later down the line. Treat them well and they’re more likely to share it with you, and to share positive information about you to others in key positions. Snub them or minimize their contributions and they are just as likely to speak ill of you.
5. Be great at what you do.
Ultimately, the best way to gain recognition is to succeed in the role you have. Not every company is going to have a built-in opportunity to meet key connectors in other fields. As a result, your own personal reputation becomes the best possible calling card. Someone who is trying to develop contacts has a greater chance of being remembered when they have a solid track record to back it up. It is a truism that most people want to associate themselves with winners. Succeed in your role and key personnel in the organization will be eager to hitch their wagon to your star.