When your orientation to a new job takes too long, your organization loses the ability to tap into your creativity, knowledge, industry contacts, and fresh ideas.
So what can you do to leap into the saddle ASAP? Here are ten ideas. Notice how many of them deal with building an internal network!
- Recognize that you, in a new situation, will need to notice the cultural ground rules and be aware of some of the organizational history before leaping into action.
- Know that most organizations think that providing you with information is the key to helping you become productive quickly.
- Get clear that your best strategy is to build relationships, not gulp information. The more connected you feel, the more you’ll feel satisfied and committed to your new job.
- Often introductions to others in an organization aren’t strategic and are done during a quick walk down a hallway. Ask your boss, “Who do I need to get to know?” Say, “When you introduce me, I know you’ll be telling about my background. It will help me out if you’ll also fill me in on the other person’s roles and projects. That way, it will be easier for me to go back later and delve into things I need to get up to speed on.”
- Ask for or select on your own a “buddy of the week” for at least your first month on the job. This will give you someone to ask questions of.
- Ask questions and engage in conversations in which you explore your coworkers’ and subordinates’ abilities, skills, and knowledge. Talk to people about their roles and responsibilities.
- Take advantage of your newbie “halo.” When you begin, you have a window of time in which people expect you to be a bit different. Even if networking is not the norm in your organization, you can use this time to get out of your cubicle and meet as many people as you can.
- Ask for assignments that bring you in contact with others, not stand-alone projects.
- Jump over to other groups and find out how your group and theirs are connected.
- Identify the in-house experts and resource people. Ask everyone you talk with, “Who else should I get to know?” When the same names keep popping up, you will have found the key influencers. Call and arrange to meet. Ask your boss to contact these folks in advance of your call so you are never “calling cold.”
Some forward-thinking organizations are deliberately working to create a more collaborative culture by setting up mentoring programs, encouraging the formation of communities of practice, sponsoring women’s networks and other affinity groups, and providing ways for people to interview others to discuss lateral moves and opportunities for upward mobility. In other organizations, networking violates the cultural ground rules. If that’s your assessment, talk with your boss and your colleagues about the reasons for networking inside your organization. Stress the benefits of internal networking: better internal and external customer service, streamlined internal process, getting the job done more efficiently, and a positive impact on the bottom line.
Assess your skills: Take a Self-Assessment from Make Your Contacts Count for an overview of your specific networking behaviors, attitudes, and strategies.
Adapted from Make Your Contacts Count (Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success (2nd ed.), by Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon (AMACOM, 2007).