Building the Talent Pipeline: Developing Your Networking Skills within Your Organization

Business NetworkingBy Miranda K. Brawn, Esq. Barrister-at-Law

It is clear that any woman who is going after a high-powered position in any industry, but especially in financial services, law and business, will need to have a strong resume. While many focus on painstakingly compiling their credentials, career background, accomplishments, spending weeks on application materials and making everything look as perfect as can be on paper and online, as well as conducting external networking by attending various events etc., they are forgetting one important thing – the Art of Internal Networking!

We have all heard of the saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know!” and how networking can benefit our careers. But have you thought about how your own network, especially your internal network, is your most powerful tool. Most people focus on the external networking aspect of developing their careers. Sometimes the most effective networking takes place where you dwell on a day to day basis. This relates back to the 6 Degrees of Separation theory highlighting the importance of information flow, building networks in one’s own organization and developing the tools for communication.

If you are a woman on the verge of making a big move or wanting to make such a move, consider these top ten tips for making an impact:

1. Become a Connector– Connectors have a different kind of power as they always know someone. They may be good at making suitable introductions. Hence, there is great value in forming and maintaining a strong circle of contacts. It is important to factor in first impressions and guide what you want new contacts to say about you after the initial meeting. Connectors love social connections as it is in their human nature and collect friends like stamps. It is the nurturing and coordinating of introductions that they enjoy the most which is the art of networking. That said, lots of people are not naturally social but they can become a Connector by learning the main skills. This can range from emailing or calling colleagues in other areas of the organisation who they have not seen in a while and organizing a lunch or coffee catch up to update them on various activities which may be of use and/or interest to them.

2. Focus on giving versus getting – internal networking is an investment for yourself and your organisation hence try to adopt an attitude of giving to your network. This should ultimately be a “give and take” relationship not just “take”.

3. Constantly add value to your network – Think about the ways you can add value to your network and continue to do this on a regular basis. It is important that you are playing your part and not just turning up every day to do the bare minimum. If you work in the finance industry, you could email your own area or another internal area about the latest news in the trading market or various banking regulations which are fast and flowing at the moment. Hence, who do you think they will approach should they need advice on trading or banking regulation information? I hope you are beginning to see the value in this personal branding through your internal network which could be extended to your external network. This links into my next tip where your knowledge can make you powerful within your organisation.

4. Knowledge is power so be informed – you should know where your company is going, its history, its mission statement and strategy. Understand how the company works and their business processes. Become a specialist in your area of work as the “go-to” person ensuring that you share your expertise and contacts so you and the organization can progress together.

5. Be visible and present – do not hide in your cubicle but work on raising your profile within your own company and not just within your industry. Ensure that you are visible so people in your organization know who you are. This can be achieved by volunteering for work based and non-work based projects – just make yourself available! It is also imperative to be present and in the moment when speaking to someone.

6. Talk to your co-workers – Meet and talk to new co-workers as well as existing ones and continue to communicate with them on a regular basis. Take an interest in people from greeting the receptionist and potentially stopping for 15 seconds to take a moment to look into their eyes and listen to their answer when you ask “how are you?” which is what networking is all about. This is not just networking upwards with the senior people in your organization but everyone! Hence, think about the saying where “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.

7. Listen more than you talk – everyone loves to talk about themselves. You can learn more by asking the right questions and just simply listening to them.

8. Only go to things that excite you – join and/or volunteer to help one of your organisation’s networking groups and if they don’t have one, look into starting your own networking group. Try and seek out a mentor program within your company and if there is not such an arrangement, then implement a mentoring scheme by becoming the first person to get a mentor internally. Arrange a lunchtime self-development session by determining the topic of interest to help with cross functional bridges to explain different pieces of the puzzle by inviting senior and junior people to talk about their function, area and experiences. Think about for a moment how well do different departments within your own organization network? You can totally transform your business by learning about others’ experiences.

9. Think long term vs short term– your networking may take weeks, months and most probably years before you start to see any real benefit from it. Hence, treat this like a marathon and not a sprint.

10. Hard and smart – working hard and smart while hoping to be noticed is sometimes not enough and the biggest networkers often learn about internal opportunities and updates, outside activities and conferences etc. before others, so get talking!

Research has shown that internal networking groups boost morale and profit for an organization, hence adding value to the organization and having a positive effect on the bottom line figure. So if you are not actively involved within your own organization’s networking group(s) this should be actioned sooner rather than later.

Remember that most networkers can say hello to 20-30 people, give out business cards and/or collect a few and then forget the person’s name after 5 minutes without a follow up. Hence, this is not an effective means of networking by just attending lots of events and being a friendly person. The Art of Networking, internal and external, is being able to add value to your network in terms of seeing how you can help them whether this is via an introduction for them (with a colleague or client) or sharing of information.