Whether you’re hoping to move up in your organization, communicate more effectively with teammates, or better understand how decisions on projects get made, a network in your workplace can help. We’ve discussed why a workplace network is important, and how to asses if your workplace network is robust and productive, and what to do when you’re stuck with your boss in an elevator, but once the dust is settled and your boss has safely gotten off at the eighth floor, what can you do today, right now, to extend your network?
At Edgework Consulting, we’ve looked at effective workplace networks and found that small actions can have a big impact. Remember, building an effective network takes some patience, but the little work you put in will pay itself back many times. And as you’ll see, some of these strategies won’t seem like work at all. Just think...the first person with whom you strike up a conversation at happy hour could have just the answer to that months-long design problem that’s been bothering you. Let’s start there, at the company event, and then move to other strategies that will get your network humming.
1. Attend Company Events: This is still where incredible relationship building happens. We know it can be difficult with your life schedule, and the activities may not feel like they're your speed, but find a way to attend. When an invitation comes across your desk, put it on your calendar at that moment. By putting it on your calendar, and not putting off the the decision whether to attend until your coworkers start to congregate on the day of the event, it will make it far more likely that you attend. When you’re looking ahead at your week (for this we recommend the weekly preview) it will be a firm event for you to plan around, not an inconvenience that pops up and gets in your way. As companies and work continue to evolve, the way in which people connect is also evolving. No longer are the only options to connect outside the office the occasional happy hour and the holiday party. If you have a passion, it’s likely other people in your office share it, so take charge and organize an event around that passion. Painting classes, a jazz concert, or the new Asian-fusion restaurant can all be fun alternatives to usual office events. Though it takes courage to put yourself out there and organize, the connection you create with your coworkers will be even stronger. And at the end of the day, you’ll be spending time doing what you actually want to do.
2. Visit Company Hotspots: The place you’re most likely to find the highest concentration of people from work is at work, so start your network building while you are there. This may seem obvious, but there are plenty of opportunities to make connections with coworkers every day. Are you currently working in accounts but want to move to marketing? When you run out of coffee, take your mug to marketing in the other wing and refill there. If there’s no one there when you go up at 9:30, the next day try stopping by at 10:15. Learn the natural biorhythms of your office – when is peak lunch time? Is there a break area where people usually congregate? Being visible, and asking the right questions at these times is a simple way to expand your network.
3. Schedule 25 Minutes a Week to Intentionally Build Your Network: What you do during that time is up to you, but putting that time down on your calendar keeps you honest and compels you to make that effort to connect. 25 minutes a week means just five minutes a day. When you’re taking a break from your work, use that time to fine tune your networking. Add a few coworkers on LinkedIn, Google the new app you heard the sales team talking about, or follow up in an email with a link to the new Star Wars trailer you were talking about, and share your theory on how the Skywalkers are the Kennedys of Tatooine.
Building your workplace network is not a magic formula. It takes time and effort, but it can – and also should – be fun. You have a lot of life commitments, and it’s easy for those to overwhelm building out your network. But if you are deliberate about it, by putting time on your calendar, reaching out to colleagues to organize events, or stopping by company hotspots, you'll keep yourself accountable. And by putting yourself in charge, you get to work on your own terms. By doing this, you’ll find your network and connections growing rapidly. And the more connections you have, the easier it will get. Check back here for more resources on workplace networks, including exactly who you should be connecting with when you organize the office's first trip to an improv comedy show.
Do you have some tips for building your network? We'd love to hear them. Comment below!