Thursday, July 22, 2010

Developing "your network" at a new job

Today, one of the most important tools for any job is "your network." This network is not the one that your computers connect too, nor is it a physical item in your office. "Your network" is the group of people that you have established relationships with that can assist you in doing your job more efficiently. These relationships allow you to quickly gather information, answer questions and complete tasks by quickly knowing who within "your network" to call on and who is best suited to assist with a task.

"Your network" is critical to ensuring you can be a success in any role. As people become more distributed in the jobs they complete and jobs become more complicated, the number of other staff you must work with will quickly grow. By having a network of established peers, you can:

  • Quickly locate those folks that are necessary to collaborate with on projects to be successful

  • Ensure that you focus on your tasks and not tasks that another organization is better suited to complete

  • Have a group of staff to ask questions of, get advise from and look too for mentoring or leadership guidance

  • Look good in the eyes of your peers and customers by efficiently completing tasks and projects

  • Have a group of folks to speak to when things at work get stressful

  • Avoid unnecessary mistakes by learning from your peer's experiences

The most critical time to have a strong network to rely on is when you start a new job, or position within the same company. A strong network will allow you to quickly learn the position and be successful at your new tasks. The most common ways to build "your network" in a new role are:

  • Call your peers or sit down over a cup of coffee with them. You can use this time to discuss team dynamics, their roles, their capabilities and understand what they do to be successful on the team.

  • Make a note of important names mentioned during conference calls, meetings and in passing. Reach out to these individual offering a short introduction, and ask about their role. This will help understand when they can be engaged on projects.

  • The most important item in my mind when building your network is asking questions. As a new member of any team, it is not expected that you know everything on day one. Asking questions and following up with the proper subject matter experts shows engagement, passion and a desire to grow with the team.

Until now, most of what I have written is geared towards developing your network within your primary job, at work and with your coworkers. Another important aspect of "your network" is developing relationships with those that are in other industries and similar roles at other companies. These types of networking opportunities allow you to grow not only in your role, but within your industry and develop as an authority within your field.

Long term, the larger your network, the more opportunities you will have for exciting projects, new roles and assistance on your projects. With the mobility in the modern job market, and the uncertainties around long term, consistent employment, having a large network ensures you always have methods for locating new opportunities and sharing your capabilities with others.

These networks do not develop over night, they often take months or years to develop at any company or within a new role. Patience pays off, when starting in a new role, reach out to as many people as possible to introduce yourself and ask about their roles. Some folks will be more receptive than others, but the key is to share your capabilities, understand other peoples and in time, you will develop a strong network to assist in completing your duties.

Ultimately, some of these contacts you develop may turn into longer term relationships. Some of my best friends are people that I first met as peers or members of my network while at a job or working on a project.