No matter your definition of professional success, it’s hard to achieve your goals alone. More often than not, successful people are able to build and leverage a strong internal network. Whether you’re looking to get promoted, broaden your skill set or simply be more productive with your time, a strong internal network can help get you there.
While a single definition of success is always hard to pin down, when it comes down to it, many professionals dream of steady pay bumps, lofty titles, and expanded leadership responsibilities. While skills and experience needed varies from job to job, one important, and often overlooked, skill is held in common by many successful leaders: they build strong connections within their companies. In other words, many successful people are great at internal networking. They get to know colleagues across their organizations, learn to tap their expertise far and wide, and build a sizable internal network in the process.
“One of the first things we learned is that salespeople with larger, more inclusive networks tended to have better outcomes,” reported Microsoft.
Take the research from Microsoft as reported in the Harvard Business Review. In this study, Microsoft aggregated de-personalized calendar and email metadata for their enterprise salespeople. Then, they analyzed it to look for trends and business impacts. The results were astonishing: “One of the first things we learned is that salespeople with larger, more inclusive networks tended to have better outcomes,” reported Microsoft. The results of this study have huge implications for the prescribed daily networking habits of enterprise salespeople.
A study by Volometrix reached similar conclusions, and expanded on the types of networks needed. “When you think about the level of complexity in a large organization, it makes sense that people who find ways to build more relationships get exposed to more ideas from across the business, are able to access expertise quickly when needed, and have more context about what’s happening. All of these things help them to be successful.”
The biggest improvements came when employees had strong internal networks in all three of these areas:
Your company is a rich field of potential connections just waiting to be discovered. Like successful leaders, you need to begin building your internal network today and nurturing it actively, and consistently over time. In the Microsoft study above, they showed that it took at least 12 months to build a network of considerable substance. Plus, it’s best to actively and deliberately expand your network beyond your known circle - across departments, divisions, and hierarchies.
Here are a few concrete ways building a strong internal network will help your career:
One of the best reasons to foster your internal network is to ensure you’re not forgotten when it comes to career opportunities or special projects outside of your current role or department. Many recruiting teams are starting to learn the value of internal talent acquisition, and the more connected you are, the more likely you’ll be thought of when new positions are added.
McKinsey reports that on average, professionals spend 20% of the time looking for people or information inside their own companies. So, continuing to build out your internal network is time well spent, and actually makes you more productive in the long run. Moreover, your growing internal network is bound to include a multitude of experts on a variety of subjects. This highly skilled professional network can help you find answers, and do so more quickly than your colleagues that haven’t built equally strong connections internally.
It has been said; “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” Author of Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazi makes the case that the process of building relationships is like planting seeds; the relationships will provide both growth as well as harvestable fruit over time. The more people you interact with, the more skills, personalities, and styles you’ll be exposed to, and you'll find new areas of interest, and seek new challenges, and learn new skills.
A recent study by the Economist Group shows that 70% of business leaders believe that they have a talent and skills deficit, and they believe that is the number one risk to their business growth goals. Evidence shows, however, that many leaders fail to have the data or technology to support advanced searches or decision-making relative to talent. As author Lou Adler reported in LinkedIn, nearly 85% of jobs are placed via networking, rather than cold applications. The same function is at work internally. Building relationships, seeking new challenges and visibility above your pay grade is an important way to have your skills recognized by leaders that can positively impact your career.
“One of the most unremarked advances of the online revolution is that we now hear loudly from the quieter half of the population,” writes Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Internal networking can seem scary and stressful for everyone, especially introverts. New technologies, such as Structural, break down the barriers to building your internal network and help you discover, connect and collaborate with colleagues across the enterprise. Moreover, technologies that incorporate people analytics, which may track metrics like projects completed or other measurable accomplishments, can help introverts create and nurture their own sort of productivity-based voice, so long as leadership is willing to listen and has the right tools to do so.
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