This is Step number 1 to create your personal network. It is to identify people you enjoy being with.
I will not describe how you connect yourself to everybody to meet. Because I think the only way to build a long-term reliable network is to create it with people you like.
For me it makes no sense that a network contains people only because of their position in the company. If you don’t like each other, the connection will not last very long. And more important when you need to rely on your network, these people will not help you.
Therefore focus on the ones you like. Focus on the ones that potentially can become real friends.
During the first days, you people consider you as “the newcomer”. That’s a big opportunity. The door from everybody is open to you. You did not do anything (right or wrong) yet.
That means people are open and unprejudiced.
They also want to know who you are.
I strongly recommend to use this chance.
I usually try to meet my new colleagues in a one-to-one situation, because in these situations they are very much themselves. There might be some invisible social structures in the team that you don’t know yet. People behave differently when they are alone or in a group of people.
They are willing to share more, when they are alone.
When you met people you probably already recognized that some conversations are easier than others. And some conversations leave you with more energy than you had before. The opposite happens as well. Focus on the people who give you energy instead of taking it.
Focus on the people who are sympathetic to you.
Sounds logical, but people sometimes try to be best friends with anybody. That might work on the short-term, but is not a sustainable basis for your long-term personal network. Pick your connections carefully.
Imagine you meet a manager of another department. This manager is not really sympathetic to you. But you think you need to get in touch with him, because he or she might be useful in the future.
In the same time you meet someone from the team of this manager. This person is very sympathetic to you.
Personally, in this case I’d establish a closer contact the team member. It lasts longer. Keep a good professional relation to the manager, but try to establish a closer contact to the team member.
When it comes to the point where you need the support of this department, the team member will be much more willing to help you, compared to the manager.
Simply because the team member cares more. This relation is more honest.
Try to identify the people who you enjoy working together, being together, talking/discussing together.
When you identified a colleague, try to get into a one-to-one conversation with him or her to find out who he or she is.
Good locations are usually the office kitchen, coffee maker, on the way to or from lunch or during a morning coffee.
How to start a conversation out of nothing?
I start sometimes just like this. I go to that person, shake hands to formally say hello and I say: “Hi, I’m Peter.” They usually say at least “Hi.” as well. If I feel that they are ok with having a short conversation, I go on with: “I just started today in this team. What are you working on?” or “In which team do you work?” And the conversation starts.
You hesitate to start a conversation, because you don’t know what to say? Or you fear to say something stupid?
Have in mind: after the first two or three sentences neither of you will remember what words you used to start this conversation. It simply doesn’t matter how you started. Important is that you get in touch.
Some questions I usually ask:
- What are you working on?
- What is your main responsibility?
- What is the biggest project of your department?
- How long do you work for the company?
- How long do you work within the team?
And more personal:
- What did you do before your current position?
- Where did you work before your current company?
If your company has some sites abroad:
- Did you every work in …?
Even more personal:
- “I just moved there and there. Where do you live?”
I never touch politics or ethnic or controversial topics during the first conversations.
In an article Susan RoAne, author of several books about networking, gives an interesting hint for conversations. Personally, I sometimes make the mistake to tell directly everything. But if you read her statement, it really makes sense in order make people become interested in you. The article states:
While it’s important to develop a self-introduction and conversation starters, RoAne recommends that when you meet someone who asks what you do, “don’t give your title. Give the benefits of what you do. For example, I can tell people I’m an author and networking coach, but that’s not very interesting. However, if I say I turn people into mingling mavens, then I’ve invited people to ask me more about what I do.
After the conversation you will see and feel if it was a good one or not. Try to see if it gave you energy, new ideas or things that were really interesting for you.
Who to meet.
Try to meet colleagues from your team, but also try to meet colleagues from other teams that are on the same floor as you are.
I recommend also that you get in touch with the secretary or assistant of your team.
The team assistants are one of the most important persons in most companies from my experience. Why? Because they usually have access to literally everything.
If you need something, they usually know where to get it. Assistants usually have access to calendars of team leaders and department heads. That is very useful when you one day need to talk to one of the managers.
Team assistants are often also well-connected to your team members and to other teams. In case you need any information, and that will most probably the case i.e. in your first project, they most likely know whom to talk to.
Personally, I do and always did maintain the connection to the team assistants very careful.
Finally, once you identified the right people for you, step 2 shows you how you can structure your network now.
Step by step you will identify more and more interesting people. If not you should consider to change your job/team/project etc. That would be a sign that you don’t belong where you are at the moment.
But I’m sure your list of people will grow over time. How to keep in touch? That is part of the next post of this series: Create A Unique Contact List.
Do these tips work for you? No? Let me know in the comments or by mail. I can help you to establish easily a reliable sustainable personal network.