Networking is an integral part of the modern career. In many cases, it's less about what you know and more about who you know. So, the more you can network with others, the better your chances of advancing your career and getting to where you want to be next. Typically, networking happens in person, either at a cocktail party or networking event.
But what if you're a remote worker? What if you can't attend an in-person event to network with others? Fortunately, technology can help with internal networking, so you don't miss out on opportunities. That said, there are some do's and don'ts to ensure you get the most out of your internal networking sessions. So, with that in mind, let's discuss what you should and shouldn't be doing.
Why Should Workers Focus on Internal Networking?
If you're not actively looking for new career opportunities, networking may not seem necessary for your job. However, some tangible benefits come from this process, whether you do it in-person or online. Here are the top reasons why internal networking should be front and center in your mind.
Mentoring is an excellent way to gain new insight and understanding into your job and personal life. Working with a mentor helps you get a different perspective from someone who has either been where you are now or is where you want to be in the future. Usually, mentors are those who have already reached a top level of success (i.e., an executive). However, you can get mentored by anyone from any department or field.
One of the great things about mentoring is that it doesn't follow a rigid structure or platform. Pretty much anyone can be a mentor or mentee, making it super accessible. Also, you can get mentored on your schedule, making it even more flexible and accommodating. Often, all it takes to get a mentor is to ask someone if they're willing to share their experiences and knowledge. Mentoring sessions can be somewhat formal or completely casual, depending on the nature of the relationship.
Overall, mentoring allows you to get an inside look at where you want to be in your life, so you can determine what it will take to get there. Even if you're not ready to make the move right now, having this information helps prepare you for that moment later on.
The primary purpose of networking is to meet people who can help you reach your next career stage. Sometimes, advancement is a linear path of promotions. For example, you start at an entry-level position, then become a supervisor, then a manager, and then an executive. However, your career path may not follow such a linear structure. Perhaps you want to change departments or move into a position that doesn't necessarily have authority. Everyone can find fulfillment with different jobs, so there's no "one-size-fits-all" option.
Internal networking allows you to talk to people within the company to see what kind of advancement options are available. Then, as positions become open, you can communicate your interest and hopefully be on the short list of candidates. Ideally, the company can combine an internal networking directory with a central, transparent, place to post workplace opportunities. Platforms like Structural make it easy to achieve both goals simultaneously for a more cohesive business structure.
Better Interpersonal Relationships
Who says networking has to be about work? While networking events can help you discover new job opportunities or side hustles, they're also a great way to meet new people. If you approach these events as social gatherings, that can relieve some of the pressure of interacting with various attendees. When you're not looking for advancement, you're free to be more relaxed and personable.
On the company level, networking events allow remote workers to get to know each other better and feel like they're part of an active community. In many cases, remote employees can feel a bit isolated, especially if they only interact with a supervisor or a few people within a team. By expanding that network to include individuals from other departments, workers can peek behind the curtain and get a better sense of the company's culture.
How to Network in a Remote or Hybrid Workplace the Right Way
Now that we know the value of internal networking, how can we go about it the right way? Here are some tips on making the most of these sessions.
Leverage Shared Experiences or Work History
Ice breakers are essential for a networking event since you'll be talking to people you don't know. At a networking event, this process is a bit smoother, but when everything is happening online, you have to put in a little more effort to reach out to someone. With internal networking, you have a built-in conversation starter, which is about your shared experiences at the company. For example, you can ask about someone's tenure within their position and what kinds of experiences they've had so far. From there, you can discuss your roles within the company and how they've shifted over time.
If you're new to the business, you can relay stories from other jobs you've had at similar companies. You may also want to talk to people who've been with the current company for a while. That way, you know what to expect in the future.
Utilize Employee Directory Software
An employee directory is an essential component for businesses with remote staff. The directory makes it easy to discover potential networking partners because you can see where they fit within the company's structure. The directory may also provide additional details like personal information, family size, hobbies, and more. Knowing these details can help you break the ice and find potential talking points when you start a conversation.
The other advantage of a directory is that you may be able to reach out through the software directly. This way, everything stays within the site, making the interactions feel more professional. Then, after chatting for a while, you can discuss taking the conversation "offline" if you want to talk further.
Do Your Research
Before reaching out to someone for a networking opportunity, you should know a little bit about them. You should also be prepared with your own information since they'll likely have questions. If you just send a message blindly, it's hard to keep the conversation going, especially if the other person is not very interested in networking with you.
Researching some basic information allows you to be open, honest, and clear about your intentions. At a cocktail mixer, you can be a bit more casual and friendly. However, online networking often has to cut straight to the point.
Be Respectful of Everyone's Time
Whether you're attending a specific networking event or reaching out to someone directly, you shouldn't try to monopolize their time. At an event, you can always exchange information to continue your conversation at a later date. If you're reaching out directly, you may or may not get a response immediately. Overall, remember that everyone has their own lives and responsibilities, and networking is rarely required.
Even as you start talking with someone, you always want to be accommodating. If necessary, you can both come up with clear expectations and boundaries. For example, you can only talk during specific times of the day or no communication after a particular time. By defining these features of the relationship, it's easier to ensure continued success.
Have Specific Goals in Mind
Finally, before you start networking with anyone, you should know what you want to get from the relationship. You should also be upfront about these goals relatively quickly. While you may not need to spell them out in your opening message, you should let the other person know why you're interested in networking with them. Doing this ensures no confusion and makes it easier for the other person to accept or decline your invitation.
The other benefit of having specific goals in mind is that they can help you stay focused in your interactions. For example, if you're trying to get mentored by someone, you can reach out for advice about a particular topic or problem you're having.
What NOT to Do When Networking in a Remote or Hybrid Workplace
Networking is pretty straightforward, but it can still be tricky to do correctly. If you're new to the process or aren't used to networking remotely, here are some things to avoid.
Don't Be Pushy
Networking, like any relationship, takes two people to work. If you're the only one sending messages or requests, then you're not really networking. Being respectful of other people's time and energy means you should respect their involvement. If the other person isn't interested in chatting, that's okay. If they don't want to interact with you at all, that's also okay. No one owes you their time, so you shouldn't press the issue.
Don't Get Too Personal
Even if the goal of networking is to build better relationships within teams and departments, you have to remember that these people are co-workers, not friends. While co-workers can become friends over time, that has to happen organically. While networking, you can relay some personal information, but make sure it relates to the topic at hand. Also, you should never discuss personal relationships, such as those between your spouse, your kids, or your relatives.
Basically, you want to keep everyone at arm's length. You should also avoid asking super personal questions, even if someone starts discussing their personal life. It's easy to stray into awkward or inappropriate territory, so you stay within your lane as much as possible.
Don't Ghost Fellow Networkers
Sometimes, people may try to network with you, not the other way around. Ideally, your interactions will be mutually beneficial, and you'll enjoy talking with each other. However, if you don't want to network with someone, you should be open and honest about that. Ghosting someone (i.e., ignoring their messages) is disrespectful and could lead to conflict later on.
This tactic is also especially dangerous in a company setting since you may be forced to interact with that person later. Instead, you can tell them you're not interested and that you'd like to keep your relationship at a distance for the time being. As long as you're professional with your response, you should be able to avoid any sticky situations.
Let Structural Help Your Business Create a Top-Tier People Directory
Structural allows businesses to create internal networking directories quickly and efficiently. As we've seen, there are numerous directory software advantages, including recruitment, mentoring, and empowering employees to connect with people and opportunities. If you're interested in upgrading your remote or hybrid workplace, contact us today!