We've talked about the importance of internal networks before. Successful leaders build strong internal networks and learn about how a Digital Employee Engagement Platform and an Employee Directory Software helps them get to know their colleagues all across the organization.
If you're an extrovert, building an internal network is probably intuitive. Extroverts thrive on being with other people. Introverts, however, can network as well. Networking for introverts looks a little different than it does for extroverts.
So let's dive in and discover how introverts build internal networks.
What is an Internal Network, and Why Is it Important?
Networking occurs when we interact with others electronically or in person to share information. An external network represents connections outside your company, and an internal network represents connections within your organization.
Internal networking is essential for career growth and opportunity. Salespeople with large internal networks tend to be more successful than those without them, according to a study in Harvard Business Review. Internal networking also leads to collaborations that result in better ideas and a breakdown of silos. Internal networking can also help you learn about other functions within the company and how each function contributes to the company's success. Having good relationships with others in your company can also help you build strong interdepartmental teams.
Internal networking can also help you find your dream job. As many as 80 percent of jobs are filled through networking, according to CNBC. Hiring internally is a popular way to fill positions, as research shows that internal hires perform well and tend to stay in the job longer than external hires. Internal networking can keep you at the top of others' minds when vacancies arise.
Where to Start
So, you agree that internal networking is essential. Now, you may wonder where to start. After all, you're not usually the most gregarious person at the company Christmas party. Here are some ideas for introverts on how to network internally.
Play to Your Strengths
Networking is a two-way relationship, and it is most successful when both parties offer something worthwhile to the other. Begin by thinking about what gifts you bring to the table, a Forbes article suggests. Realize that your goal is to build a meaningful relationship, which is something that introverts naturally can do well. Networking isn't about filling your electronic business card holder with just a lot of names. Quality is more important than quantity.
Discovering your strengths is a good self-knowledge exercise as well. Once you know your strengths, you can effectively use them in other aspects of your life and career.
Focus on Smaller Venues
While the office party may be a frightening prospect, inviting one person to have coffee and conversation may be a more realistic option for an introvert. The advantage is that you'll get to know the other person better in a one-on-one encounter, where it'll be much easier to find shared interests and connect in a more quiet, personal environment.
Also, consider creating your own smaller events. For example, you could bring together small groups of colleagues with shared interests for discussions or meals.
Meeting over coffee is a great way to break the ice and network in a smaller setting.
Timing is everything, especially for introverts who want to spend time with others. Consider your own circadian rhythms -- when you're at your best and most able to "psyche yourself up" for being with others. For example, you may be better early in the morning before you become tired. Or, you find you can't function early in the morning but do well at dinner. Try to schedule networking events for your best times.
Being an introvert means that you recharge in solitude. So try to ensure you have some quiet time between events. If you're invited to several events close together in time, attend those most likely to help you develop deep connections. Don't feel guilty over declining others. You can focus on the other person better when you're rested and have recharged yourself.
Use the Rule of Two
Set a reasonable goal. Instead of setting a goal to meet 15 people, set a goal to have a meaningful conversation with two new people. Then plan some conversation starter questions. For example:
- Where were you born?
- What do you love most about your job?
- What made you smile today?
- Is this your first time in this city? What are your impressions?
Once you've reached your goal, permit yourself to leave the event. Be sure to follow up over the next few days with an email or other contact later to solidify the relationship further. Mention something you valued in the conversation, or if they gave you advice, tell them how you used it. You could also use the email as an opportunity to suggest getting together for coffee.
Look for Other Introverts
Another way to make valuable connections is to look for other introverts. They may be standing off to the side with no one to talk to or spending a lot of time at the punch bowl. Strike up a conversation with them. They'll appreciate having someone to talk with just as much as you do.
Listen More, Talk Less
People love to talk about themselves, and you can make solid friends by giving them the opportunity. Ask them interesting questions about their lives and then listen to their answers.
If possible, try to find commonality with the other person. For example,
- Do you share hobbies?
- Were you born in the same state?
- Do you both like to binge-watch the same TV show?
The common interest doesn't need to be work-related; it can even be trivial. The common interest will be a great way to follow up on your first encounter and further bond with the other person.
Use Technology When Possible
One-on-one contact is vital in building a relationship, but you don't always have to meet in person. Many opportunities exist to use technology to stay in touch with members of your internal network.
What to Avoid
The essential quality in networking is to be authentic. People can sense authenticity and will warm to it. Likewise, they'll sense when you aren't authentic. Don't try to be something you're not.
Don't Forget Your Manners
Mind your manners, always. Say please, thank you, and excuse me when appropriate. Avoid discussing topics that cause contention -- religion and politics, for example. And, don't talk with your mouth full.
Also, avoid monopolizing another person's time. People expect to mingle at events. They also don't want to receive countless long emails or texts from you.
Also, avoid being self-consumed in your conversations. Focus on the other person and how you can get to know them and help them. Prepare your elevator speech ahead of time, but don't stress about having the opportunity to present it. The more you are interested in others, the more interesting you will be to them.
Avoid Speaking Only With Those You Already Know
Speaking with those you already know is comfortable for introverts, and it does keep you at the top of the other person's mind. However, the object of internal networking is to get to know other people.
We've all heard the axiom, "Make new friends, but keep the old." Set a goal of meeting new people while also keeping in touch with those who've met before. If you're nervous about meeting new people, you can always ask a mutual acquaintance to introduce you, Forbes says.
However, don't waste by staying in a situation where you feel uncomfortable. If you approach someone and receive a rude or inappropriate response, thank the contact and leave. Also, don't stick around if you sense the other person isn't interested. Excuse yourself and find another person to talk with.
Don't Forget to Follow Up
If you've promised to do something to help someone, be sure to do it. Following up on your promises demonstrates that you care about the person and their needs and also shows that you are trustworthy.
Don't Forget to Keep A Record
Find a way to keep a list of those in your internal network, what you've learned about them, and when you last made contact. You could use an old-fashioned spreadsheet; however, many software platforms have options for recording this information. Structural's employee directory software allows for information for all the employees in a company to be kept in one easy to access space. Remembering the big and little things makes for a great impression. It shows you're putting in the effort to genuinely get to know your colleagues. Structural's dynamic people directory keeps track of all sorts of employee information from their department to their coffee order and T-shirt size.
Avoid falling into the trap of criticizing your boss, your company, or your coworkers. This warning applies to your current job and your former job, too. The new contact may know and like these individuals. They also may wonder what is wrong with you that you have so much trouble dealing with them.
Where a Digital Employee Engagement Platform Comes In
A Digital Employee Engagement Platform helps facilitate internal connections. It helps employees meet and engage with each other and is a perfect forum for introverts. It allows you to search for the proper connection for a project, job opening, mentoring, or information gathering. You can also set search filters to search for many variables, then contact the individuals.
A Digital Employee Engagement Platform also helps you find and engage with employees in other company locations or who work remotely. A Digital Employee Engagement Platform can be vital to helping you build and maintain your internal network.
Structural's Digital Employee Engagement Platform is robust and secure and allows both introverts and extroverts to connect and collaborate with others easily. Contact us for a preview today.