Have you thought about “networking” at work?

There are a thousand blog posts and articles out there on the importance of networking. Whether you’re at an after-five function, out on the town, at a conference, or in the lobby, the importance of making the most of chance meetings, random encounters and casual conversations for the good of your credibility and personal brand has been well documented.

Let me ask you this, though; how many people do you work with that you have never spoken to? How many times have you passed ‘Peter’ in the hall at work, only to give him a nod, or for both of you to look down at your shoes as you pass each other?

If we’re prepared to confront strangers at a formal networking event, why do so many of us ignore unfamiliar colleagues, with whom striking up a conversation between the 9-5 should be much easier than at 6:00pm, when we’re playing those awkward ‘networking games’ at an event or function?

Sure, to you in IT/Marketing/Creative/Account Service/Communications, ‘Peter’ might just be that guy from Finance/Design/Community Engagement/Administration. But next time you’re at the coffee machine or in a common area, why not take the time to find out exactly who Peter is, and what he does? You might be surprised.

A brief conversation might reveal you share common interests. Such a chat could be the start of a beautiful friendship, a strategic partnership, or nothing at all. At the very least, you suddenly know one more person in your workplace, and if it comes to nothing, well, at least you don’t have to stare at your shoes anymore.

Many of us spend so much time wanting to network outside work, that often we lose sight of the fact that some of the most important contacts might be the ones right across the hall, or downstairs. They might be some of the people we see every day, but discount — either consciously or subconsciously — because they aren’t part of our department, or just because.

The size of your workplace is a factor, obviously. If you don’t know everyone in your office of ten people, then you’ve got an issue. But in large and complex organisations, it can be hard to know where to start.

I’m of the belief that knowing someone is better than not knowing someone. It’s when we don’t know someone that we create our own perceptions of who that person is. From perceptions come assumptions, and assumptions can be dangerous.

Want to build your credibility and the ability to influence? Start in your own backyard; at work.

Indeed, making a small effort in this way gives you a reason to strike up a conversation with that person next time you see them. Connected people are some of the more powerful in life. In the context of your workplace, there’s no better way to build your confidence and gain credibility by taking the time to talk to people you might not ordinarily talk to.

Next time you pass ‘Peter’ in the hall, don’t look down at your shoes; smile, make eye contact, take a deep breath, and say hello; you never know who you might be connecting with.



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