Although there are any number of different networking groups and events you can attend, some of the best networking can occur within your organisation. To build your profile and reputation internally and understand "who's who in the zoo" it is worth investing time to get to know the people around you. Here are some suggestions of activities you could try to boost your internal networking skills.
Volunteer for the social committee. Every business (large or small) has a social committee (sometimes is it informal) designed to create fun activities to get to know co-workers. Invest some of your time to help the team create some fun and energy in your workplace. Organise a variety of events some costing money, others that are free, some that include family members or partners and some that involved outside activity i.e. company picnic you can all meet in a park, take your own food, provide sports equipment and plan to have fun. This activity also allows others to meet your extended family and help learn more about you. If you want to keep it strictly to those you work with, organise an event where you can meet people during the week and participate in an activity i.e. ten pin bowling or the movies. By choosing a week night it means people are not giving up their weekend. At Christmas hold an event to help a charity by collecting gifts or tinned food to donate to the needy.
Arrange a Lunchtime self-development session. Determine a topic you and your colleagues would be interested in, then simply invite someone into your organisation to give a brief presentation allowing time for questions and answers. You don't need to pay this person; they may be an internal expert you invite. Choose someone who is an expert in his or her topic area. When organising the meeting, set up the agenda so that there is time when people arrive to meet each other, allow 20 minutes for the presentation, 10 minutes for questions and a few minutes at the end to continue chatting to co-workers.
Start Friday night drinks after work. Suggest your team finish at 5.00 on Friday afternoon and all meet at a local bar or café. Invite other teams that you work with to join you. Meet from 5.00 6.00 PM so it isn't a late night and still allows people to meet other Friday evening commitments. Pick a central location close to the office and make it a regular event. After a month it will gain momentum and people will know you are there and will join you when they leave the office.
Organise a lunchtime sports team. This is a great way to build teamwork internally and also get to know people from other areas within the organisation. Put up a notice or send an email asking for interested parties and then form a team i.e. basketball, football, tennis, soccer team are all fun and easy to organise. Find an oval, park or gym close to the office you can use and set a regular time and day each week to meet. This is a great way to also get fresh air and exercise while networking. You might even like to get everyone to contribute some funds and organise team t-shirts to wear, your organisation may even have some you can use!
Hold a quarterly breakfast forum and invite the CEO. Make an appointment with your CEO's Personal Assistant and advise them you would like to invite the CEO to a quarterly breakfast where they can meet the team and also answer questions they might have. Once you get approval from the PA, book the next quarter's date and find a suitable venue (preferably close to the office). Each person pays for their own breakfast so it doesn't cost the company any money. Make arrangements with a café close to the office or in-house catering if you have it, and start at 7.30 and finish by 8.45. This allows people to meet, ask the CEO questions and get involved in discussions.
Seek out (or start) a mentor program. Identify people you would like to learn from within the organisation and approach them about being mentored for 6 months. If your organisation already has a mentoring program, sign up and get involved.
Write for the company newsletter. Offer to provide articles or updates for the internal newsletter. This is a great way to work with the production team (who are often volunteers looking for content for the newsletter).
Get involved in a charity. Select a deserving charity and organise events within the company to raise money for them. Your company may already have a chosen charity, if so; invite someone from the organisation to update your colleagues on suggestions of how you can help even more. This can be a fun way to help others and also help you get to know those you work with. Make it an annual event if it is something special i.e. red nose day or Daffodil day.
Hold a 'brown bag' seminar at lunchtime. Invite everyone to bring his or her own lunch; you can invite a speaker to provide information to the team. The topics might be relevant to them for outside life i.e. health, fitness, family or some way to add value to the people you work with. The topics can come from our colleagues ask them for suggestions. You can hold these on a monthly basis and allow time within the agenda to meet at least two other people from other departments. Advertise it on the notice boards, email and in the bathrooms (you would be surprised how many people read information in the bathrooms).
Organise cross-function team events. Get to know other teams within the business by holding a morning tea and asking the other team to explain what they do within the business and the challenges they face, and then you do the same. This is a great way to find about others and also share what you are working on.
Start a book club. Find a few people who are interested in similar books to you, set yourself a book to read every two months. If it is an Australian author, invite them to join you at one of your meetings to explain more about the book and why it was written. Most authors love to meet their readers. When you get together, chat about what you learnt from the book, what your opinions are on the writing style and what you liked most about the book.
Get in a project team. Seek opportunities to work on projects within your team and with other departments. Ensure you have your manager's permission to be involved. This is a great way to network and learn from others.
Offer to be the MC. If you have a conference or event, offer your services to be the master (or mistress) of ceremonies. This will help you meet other people within the organisation, external experts that might be invited as part of the event and also help profile your skills.
Provide your business card to co-workers. When you meet someone from another department always offer your card. This will give them your contact information if they want to contact you again.
Make the most of getting to know those you work with, take time to learn what they do and how you can work together to achieve your goals.
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