Too often, business professionals network only when they’re job searching. Many also exclusively network outside the office—for example at a convention or professional event.
But this limited approach overlooks opportunities to build meaningful connections to individuals with immediate relevance to your career. Contrary to popular belief, networking isn’t a one-time occurrence that only happens in the company of strangers. Instead, effective leaders understand it should happen with every interaction in a professional capacity, regardless of the setting.
A new job brings with it a convenient, unassuming way to introduce yourself and expand your network authentically. Developing working relationships with your colleagues will likely improve your future career prospects, regardless of how long you stay with an organization.
Here’s how to network on an ongoing basis after starting a new job.
How to Network at a New Job
1. Be proactive.
Everyone needs allies at work. If you’re a new hire, initiate conversations with key people you want to recruit into your corner. These individuals could include your immediate department and beyond, at various levels of the organization, as long as you respect their time and can demonstrate a clear connection to work.
To start, invite a colleague to coffee or lunch and briefly introduce yourself. As concisely as possible, share what you bring to the table, including an overview of your position, past experience, skills, and vision for how you want to improve the organization. Everything you do should operate beneath one guiding principle: reciprocity.
Ask about their objectives and how you can support them. Try to understand as much as possible about their role and how your work intersects with theirs. The goal of this initial meeting is to create an easy touchpoint and identify win-win scenarios for all parties.
In just 10 or 15 minutes, you can launch a collaborative exchange, learn about your company, and create a positive first impression.
2. Share details about yourself.
Even though networking is a business strategy, you don’t have to be all-business in your demeanor or subject matter. Getting to know your coworkers socially is key to creating long-lasting relationships.
Try to include some personal information in the conversation to give your colleagues an idea of who you are as a person. It’s okay to tell stories about your life outside work, as long as it’s appropriate for the office. For example, it’s usually acceptable to discuss lighthearted topics, like a movie you saw recently, but don’t say anything that could potentially compromise your integrity, respect, or position at the company.
Not all networking relationships need to be friendships. Professional partnerships can be robust and fulfilling, even if they’re not personal.
3. Look to your colleagues for cues.
To succeed at your new job, you need to fit in with the company culture. Take time to learn about and appreciate the atmosphere. Signs are everywhere—for example, how does the team like to communicate (Slack, email, or Microsoft Teams)? What are their favorite pastimes (soccer, music, or wine tasting, for example)?
Integrate the business’s cultural norms into your everyday life by exploring commonalities. For example, you probably don’t want to use email for every communication if the team prefers to use Slack.
4. Participate in office-hosted activities.
Many companies host charity events, such as a walk-a-thon or community food drive. Team-building activities, like an annual picnic or sports league, are also common. These group activities are integral parts of the company culture and create opportunities for you to organically deepen and diversify your connections. Because these initiatives usually incorporate employees at all levels, they’re also great for networking and interacting with different departments.
If you can, volunteer at these engagements, but don’t feel pressured to take the lead on every project. Don’t step on any toes, and if you already work in a leadership capacity, support other people so they may have a chance to command more responsibility and influence at the company. Effective leadership and networking should be about empowering your colleagues instead of pursuing personal gain.
In a similar vein, if a long-time employee runs an assignment every year, don’t offer to take it over, even if you have more experience. Otherwise, the individual could react defensively, thereby creating unnecessary tension.
5. Appreciate your coworkers as individuals—not steppingstones.
If you network well, you’ll actively listen to your colleagues about their professional expertise and the personal details that make them unique. You can then leverage this information to help expand your network, facilitate introductions between colleagues, and reinforce your relationships so they endure throughout your career.
For example, if you learn one of your colleagues sings in a chorus, use this detail as an icebreaker during a conversation with a new contact who sings acapella. Generally, people appreciate having a personal connection with their associates at work and are more receptive to working with them again in the future.
Be genuine when you talk to people and demonstrate real interest in their life. By adapting an altruistic outlook, you can find new ways to relate to people—which in turn will help you advance professionally.
You got the job—now here’s how to become indispensable to an organization