No, this is not an ad for starting a company picnic, but I will go on to say that attending your work's happy hour could help you meet new peers that could help you out on projects down the road. More on that later.
Internal networking is the networking you do at work that extends outside of your normal job responsibilities, like working on a cross functional team. With this kind of networking, you create mutually beneficial relationships with other employees from your organization. For example, say you’re in the conference room waiting for a meeting to start about the new team you’re on for a project. In this case, extending a hello to someone that you may not know well from a different department shows initiative and your willingness to learn about what they can do for the project. Taking that step forward towards peers you don’t know well can be intimidating at first, especially if you’re new to the company. The faster you get into the group and obtain their knowledge, the better. Another way to continually make sure that you are taking advantage of internal networking is to sit with your supervisor or boss and have them list some names of people that could be of value for you to know later on. These could be possible mentors or simply people that know skills that you don't right now. It's in your favor to attend company events that your schedule allows. This is a great way to get in contact with peers, employees in different departments, and leaders.
External networking isn't as readily available because it's the networking that takes place outside of the workplace. It's easy to get into the habit of collecting 50 business cards at an event and never following up with anyone you meet. Just like any relationship, trust is built up over time with repeated actions like saying hello and learning about what someone does. In the future, when you've established a foundation of rapport with someone, they may be more likely to connect you with someone that could help you learn something new, help you with a project, or even get you a job.
Here are some tips to remember when you are networking internally and externally:
- Always carry some business cards at work and elsewhere
- Attend that (sometimes dreaded) work happy hour and invite or meet one new person
- Take the initiative to extend a hello to someone new on your team
- Evaluate the value you bring to others at work and continue to refine your network