Networking in large companies
By Joe Issid
Monster Contributing Writer
It's not what you know but who you know.
We've all heard various permutations of this expression over the years and we typically ascribe it to far away industries that don't impact our lives, such as Hollywood or the music business. In the 'real world', however, we have been told that hard work and perseverance will be rewarded in the long run. While this may be true, it is not the only path to success; heck, it may not even be the most fruitful. The reality is that your social and professional network will likely be the single largest determining factor in the forward progression of your career. And, if you think about it, it's not such a bad thing.
It's a simple and irrepressible human quality: people will always prefer to stick with the known and trusted entity over the unknown. Is it unreasonable for a father to hand his business over to his trusted son than to a stranger? Similarly, how many of you have recommended – or been recommended – for a job in the past by a friend or colleague? In the case of those of us who work for large companies, this is especially true. Your upward mobility within such a corporate structure is often determined by factors other than the quality of your work. I know that you've heard it a million times already, but networking and contacts are essential. Nepotism is a fact of life; and as soon as you can accept this, you can prepare to help get your career moving in the right direction.
It can be very easy to remain relatively anonymous within the framework of a large company. With such a high number of employees working across so many disciplines, gaining any level of recognition can be difficult – regardless of how much you may be excelling at your job. The harsh reality is that this lack of exposure can often be a reason why many people fail to evolve professionally within a large corporate structure. In my experiences, working within such organisations, those who were able to forge long careers within the company were those who fought hard to increase their overall visibility. So, how does one do that?
Showcase your work
There is a fine line between keeping your colleagues informed of your work and spamming the company with emails that do not concern them. Having said that, an effective way to increase your profile within the company is to communicate your successes to a wider – yet relevant – audience. It is unlikely that anyone else is going to go to the trouble to sing your praises so you are going to have to do it yourself. For example, if your team recently completed a successful project, take the time to inform your reporting tree and relevant constituents of the win. It can never hurt to have your name associated with success.
Contribute to meetings
My personal philosophy is that meetings can often be a great waste of time and resources. And larger companies tend to be the worst culprits in this vein. Having said that, the board room can be a great place to increase your profile and expand your professional circle. However, you need to be ready to provide valuable commentary to the meeting and to illustrate your subject matter expertise. Merely sitting in the back of the room will do little to propel your career forward. Additionally, spending your days running from meeting to meeting will also achieve very little. Be judicious about the meetings you attend but be sure to make the most of the time that you are spending in said meetings. You never know when your contributions will get noticed.
Don't be shy
Opportunity in large companies certainly favours the bold. Those who often find the greatest success do not do so by accident. If anything, those who are persistent and outgoing when it comes to their careers tend to find a higher degree of success. Now, I am not suggesting that you approach your career with the same strategy as your monthly paintball outing, but being assertive can have its advantages. Rather than passively waiting to be invited to work on a project or be included in the office hockey pool, simply asking for what you want is the best approach. Much like dating, sitting on the sidelines will rarely get the results you are looking for.
A good approach to working for a large company is to treat every day as if it were your first day on the job. Try and introduce yourself to any foreign face that interacts with your department; ask questions about how things work; have lunch at least once a week with your colleagues; attend as many office functions are you can. Getting to know your colleagues inside and outside of the office can be invaluable to your career. Remember: a familiar face will always beat out an unfamiliar one.
In today’s digital world, we rarely hear about the benefits of old-fashioned professional networking. Just always keep in mind that behind every large corporate veneer lies a group of people who have the same emotions and tendencies that you do. If you take the time to engage with these people on a personal, human level, you may ultimately be rewarded on a professional one.