Question: Some people seem to know everyone and how to make the most of their relationships. I have no idea how they do this. Does it come naturally, or can I learn how to create my own network of connected individuals?
Answer: A lucky few are natural networkers who initiate relationships easily. For most people, it’s a learned skill that requires regular practice to become a successful habit.
Many professionals don’t realize there are two keys to success in their career: doing excellent work and knowing the right people. Accomplishments alone aren’t enough. To be recognized for your achievements and offered increasing opportunity, you must interact with individuals who can help you succeed. Surprisingly, these people are often not where you might expect. In any organization there are both formal and informal hierarchies. The formal one is easy to recognize because it defines power by position. Everyone knows the CEO is the top dog.
On the other hand, identifying the informal structure requires finesse. In the informal hierarchy, colleagues award power to one another, regardless of position, for one of four reasons:
- Seniority – As the glue that holds the company together, these veterans are intimately familiar with the organization’s history and culture. They are reassuring, non-threatening and reliable. Often they knew the CEO when he was just a kid and continue to harbor maternal feelings for him. He has a special place in his heart for them as well.
Here’s how to find these informal centers of influence, if you are a new hire or transferee:
- Watch how your fellow employees interact with one another. Notice whose opinion your colleagues trust. In one to three months, you will know the informal power structure.
If you are joining a company task force or looking for a mentor:
- When you think you’ve found a good match, take the initiative to build a mutually beneficial relationship.
If you are moving to a new company or pursuing a client contract:
- With prior investigation and a little luck, you will have befriended someone with the formal or informal power to say yes.