Nicole Jones, Head of Learning and Development at Alexion, sat down with the Everwise team to share her perspective on internal and external networking and the benefits of both. With more than 25 years experience in Human Resources, she shared her insight on the importance of building meaningful connections, both within and outside of the office.
Internal vs. external
Internal networking allows you to reach out beyond your normal scope of job responsibilities, but it can come in many forms. Depending on the size of your company, make an effort to engage with colleagues outside of your immediate circle. Whether that be leading a Business Resource Group, attending a fireside chat with leaders, or simply grabbing coffee with a friend, it is important to take a step back from your day to day responsibilities to connect with folks in your organization.
As Nicole simply put, networking starts with saying hello. To ensure it doesn’t feel like a chore, she makes a concerted effort to say hello to colleagues in the lunchroom, hallway, or even the elevator. It’s a quick chance to connect with someone without much obligation. Do a quick mental audit on the ways in which you wish to develop your relationships with coworkers. Here are a couple ways to start:
- Check-in with your manager and learn who you should get to know within the company. It’s possible the colleagues you meet (likely leaders) will turn into an informal mentoring opportunity.
- Make a list of key players in your organization and seek their guidance. Look to colleagues in the organization who are innovative or could possibly offer a new perspective on a project or goal.
- If your organization is hosting an event – go! It’s important to show face not only with peers, but also with leaders.
External mentoring requires a different approach. In many cases, it is not as readily accessible. It is imperative to look beyond the format of the event, and build trusting relationships with the new professionals you meet. The most valuable connections will be there for you – and you’ll be there for them – throughout your career. So rather than simply collecting a stack of business cards, use the opportunity to engage and learn from folks outside of your immediate scope. Recognize that relationships take a long time (often years) and require work. Strive to maintain contact with the people you meet, offer introductions, and promote one another’s work.
Networking offers a valuable opportunity for engagement and learning both in and outside of the workplace. We’re constantly inundated with offers for various networking events, but how do you determine which ones will provide long-term value? Growing your network is one the highest yielding investments possible, both for professional and personal fulfillment.
When looking at external events, Nicole shared that she exclusively looks for events offered by a credible connection. There are countless opportunities for networking, but it’s important to be in a room with folks that you trust and with whom you can have meaningful conversation. Is there something new & different available? Is there a chance for personal growth? Will I have the chance to meet thought leaders in my space?
Nicole recently attended an Everwise event, our New York Salon Dinner. We’ve hosted a handful of these dinners across the country bringing senior HR leaders together to engage in talent topics and network with peers, without the typical agenda. With the focus of the evening on networking, there isn’t an overwhelming amount of product discussion or sales conversation. That way, the focus is on the people in the room sharing insights and developing friendships. We acknowledge that networking should be authentic and meaningful.
Pay it forward
Throughout her career, Nicole’s core focus in any role has been to enable others to be their best selves. So while networking events are of course personally beneficial, it’s also important to pay it forward. Leaders have an obligation to share learnings with their colleagues so company goals remain robust and innovative. “Get out and engage” she recommends, in order to support those around you. Rather than simply saying yes to a dinner because of the potential for great food and wine, say yes because it can continue to push your team or organization forward.
Regardless of job title or industry, it’s important to start with the right frame of mind when it comes to relationship building. Often times, we think of networking as an opportunity for chit-chat, but it is equally important to listen. Displaying a genuine interest in those around you will help to maintain the relationships you develop. Intentionally or not, you may stumble upon information or insights applicable to a problem you’re aiming to solve. Conversely, it’s likely that lessons learned while on the job may be helpful to someone in your network. Develop a system that allows for a constant exchange of valuable knowledge.
People say your network is your net worth. You can have a formal education, a strong set of skills, but if people don’t know you exist, they won’t get you far. Put yourself out there, take advantage of opportunities for growth, and engage with folks outside of your immediate scope. Creating genuine, long lasting relationship will play to your benefit and will also add value to others. It’s even possible you make one connection that could impact the trajectory of your entire career.
If you’re looking to grow your network, either by being a mentor or being mentored, Everwise can help. Learn more here.