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  3. The key to internal networking
Building Your Internal Network

The key to internal networking

Artwork by: Stas Podgornov

  • What is internal networking?
  • Examples of internal networking
  • The benefits of internal networking
  • Building an internal network
  • Key takeaways

“Your network is your net worth.” says Porter Gale, an entrepreneur and expert networker. And you don’t have to go outside your current company to develop that network. In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of building your internal network as well as how to do it successfully and productively.

By now you should be aware that networking is an important part of your career success. Effective networking can lead to new professional relationships, potential job opportunities, mentoring, and advice, and can give you a useful advantage in your field. But did you know that you don’t have to go outside your current company to build your professional network? Since many networking events are held outside your company, and your current employer probably doesn’t hold networking events, how do you go about growing your internal network when there are employees you may only see on a weekly, quarterly, or yearly basis? And why should you bother?

In this article, we’ll discuss how to go about internal networking, including:

  • What is internal networking?

  • What are examples of internal networks?

  • What are the benefits of internal networking?

  • How do you build an internal network?

What is internal networking?

Internal networking is achieved by making connections with colleagues within the company you work for, even if it isn’t mandatory for your position. With the explosion of people working from home, many companies are making an effort to encourage internal networking to increase professional relationships, motivation, productivity, and engagement. At its core, internal networking is the same concept as your standard networking, but the networks you're developing are made up of your co-workers and managers. Networking doesn't have to involve handing out business cards at conferences, workshops, lunches, or events at the local pub. Striving to build relationships “in-house” can lead to the same benefits you’d get from professionals outside the company — but you don’t have to find them, because they’re already there. You just have to reach out. 

Examples of internal networking

While external networking might involve events sponsored by professional organizations or trade associations, internal networking is usually a little less structured. It can be anything from meeting for coffee and pastries before a team meeting, utilizing internal chat networks, or small-group lunches involving employees from different departments. The important things are the opportunities for support, discussion, and learning.

Other examples of internal networking events are:

  • In-house events

  • Office socials

  • Industry events

  • Special interest social groups, either in person or online

Statistical Insight

Internal networking can lead to higher employee retention. According to a study published in Personnel Psychology, companies that encourage internal networking reduce the chances of employee turnover by up to 140 percent, as it increases overall job satisfaction and strengthens employee relationships, as well as raising concerns about losing benefits.

The benefits of internal networking

Internal networking means more than just free donuts. Career coach Michele Jennae believes that “Networking is not just about connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities.” So when you network internally, it’s not just about you; it’s making connections with other professionals that are mutually beneficial and can help you move along in your career. 

So what else can internal networking do for you?

  • It can boost your professional reputation

  • Develop a strong list of references

  • Make you more productive and improve your job performance

  • Create a support system in your workplace

  • You can learn more about your company and your industry as a whole

  • Increase your skill set

  • Gives you a “leg up” on job opportunities within the company

  • Instead of your co-workers being nameless faces in the hallway or break room, internal networking can make your workplace a more pleasant place to be, increase overall employee morale, and even boost your chances of promotion.

Building an internal network

So if you’re not exchanging resumes over mimosas or mock interviews, how do you go about building your internal network? The first, and arguably easiest thing you can do is to smile and make eye contact with your co-workers, either in the hallway, elevator, or in other publicly shared spaces. (Although this one is tough for introverts, you may just have to try it anyway.) People like people who express an interest in them. Take a moment to ask people about their work, or just something that they’re into these days. It might be the spark you need to make a professional connection.

Other ways you can build your internal network include:

  • Invite a colleague or two for lunch

  • Offer to help a co-worker with their project

  • Take on leadership roles on projects on your team and company-wide

  • Facilitate connection between others

  • Organize intra-departmental lunches

  • Participate in company events

  • Get involved in company-sponsored volunteer groups

  • Take advantage of any training or professional development opportunities given by the company

  • Go to office mixers

  • Use internal messaging systems, such as Slack, to ask questions, share information, or ask for help in finding resources

  • Look for people you can learn from and reach out

As Jennifer Miller, founder of SkillSource said, “Being an internal networker means you’re looking outside your immediate, day-to-day activities and thinking about how you can connect with and create value for others in your company.”  In other words, to paraphrase our 35th president, John F. Kennedy: Don’t just focus on what others can do for you; also consider what you can do for others.

If you're looking to move up in your company, you have to let people outside your team or department know you actually exist — you need to build your internal network, meet the right people, and build professional relationships. Beyond growing your career, internal networking can benefit you in the here-and-now, by developing and cultivating professional relationships, and building respect and trust that all lead to increased job productivity and a more positive workplace environment as well as lateral moves and promotions

Looking to take your career to the next level? Check out our Career Pathways tool and set yourself up for success.

Key takeaways

  1. Internal networking is achieved by making connections with colleagues within the company you work for instead of attending outside events.

  2. Internal networking is done by making connections with other professionals that are mutually beneficial and can help you move along in your career. It can also increase your professional reputation, increase your skill set, and increase opportunities for advancement. 

  3. Ways you can network internally include taking on leadership roles, doing volunteer work, participating in company events, and using internal messaging systems to ask questions or share information.

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