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How to network within your company

How to network within your company - UNC Kenan-Flagler Business SchoolTo be considered for a new opportunity within large organization, it’s crucial to be a known entity.

Whether you’re trying to move up, land a global assignment or simply continue to garner respect in your company, it’s important to grow your internal network, build relationships and meet key people.

Here are a few tips to get started.

Identify who to reach out to
Think of your entire network of advocates as a squid and your professional connections as its arms. You don’t just need one person who’s your advocate. You need numerous tentacles – connections in different divisions, industries and geographic locations – because you never know what kind of work you could end up doing down the road at your company or somewhere else.

Make purposeful requests
Focus your request on expanding your business knowledge, not advancing your personal objectives. If you’re simply out to meet the top executives from all of your company’s global locations, you’re not going to build meaningful relationships and you’ll leave people with the wrong impression of your intentions. Think of legitimate business-related topics that could spark a conversation.

If you’re a working professional enrolled in an advanced degree program, think about who in your company – and in which divisions – could benefit from looping you in to a particular project they’re working on. The opportunity to share what you’re learning through your coursework for the benefit of others in your organization is a legitimate reason to pick up the phone or email someone who’s pretty high up and provides context around why you’re contacting them.

If you’re not a student, think about what you’re trying to do in your career and what’s intriguing to you in the company. Identify someone who can share insights on that topic and make a purposeful request.

For example, don’t try to meet the top executive from a firm’s Asia headquarters by saying, “I’ve always thought about living in Asia. Can you help me out?”

Instead, you could say, “I’ve noticed our Asia division is really making strides in a new market that I’m not familiar with and am interested in comparing and contrasting how your business initiatives relate to what I’m doing in the States. Would you mind spending 30 minutes talking to me about that?”

Making a purposeful request shows you are focused on the business and trying to learn. It also makes a good impression that might pay off down the road.

Respect the other person’s time
When making an ask, keep in mind that the other person doesn’t know what you bring to the table. Don’t ask for an hour-and-a-half dinner or a half-day visit. Instead, start off with a 15-minute ask and let the other person extend the conversation beyond that if they choose to.

Use tech to connect
I’m a huge proponent of asking to meet via a Skype or Adobe Connect session. It’s always great to put a face to the person you’re talking with. On video chat, you can tell whether the other person is engaged in the conversation. When you’re on the phone, there’s a possibility the other person has you on mute and is multitasking.

Students in our Executive MBA and MBA@UNC Programs use the Adobe Connect and Skype technology a lot, and it can be really intriguing to the business colleague on the other end who may have never used it. It can be impressive to say, “This is how I take some of my classes with professors and interact with my classmates for team projects.”

Introducing an executive – particularly those who have been out of school for some time – to this technology really makes you memorable, even if they were nervous because it’s a new experience. I’ve heard feedback from students who have done this and afterwards said, “Wow, that was a good move.”

Find common ground
If you’re struggling to connect with others inside of your workplace or don’t know where to begin, get involved with an affinity group – think diversity or women in business – or join a committee that addresses issues like safety or sustainability. You’ll inevitably meet people from across the organization. If you’re heading up a regional group, you’ll have a legitimate reason to call your counterpart in your company’s European headquarters and say, “We’re working on this project and were wondering how you’re approaching it in your area of the world.” Look for opportunities that not only show your leadership, but will expand your network as you collaborate with others on cross-department efforts.