10 Ways To "Think LinkedIn" At Work

The first part of this post deals with the "why" of internal networking, as in why is it important. The second part goes to the "how." 

I. Why To Do It

A. To Do Your Job Better

You wouldn't know it to see me at work, but in truth I am a huge introvert. Mostly I live in my head thinking creative thoughts. The necessity of dealing with other people can actually be painful.

Which may be great for writing. But it's not great for working. Because -- particularly in the knowledge/slash collaboration enterprise -- your value comes not only from what you do, but how well you understand the actual needs of the team and contribute to those.

Notice that I said "actual" -- at work you have to listen with your "third ear" for what is really wanted and needed. For example: 
  • Customer service means identifying areas of frustration that the customer does not express.
  • Project management means getting organized but also knowing the team dynamics, sensing trouble spots and pulling out the right tool. 
  • Environmental awareness means that when you become aware of a job request, you mentally scan the rest of the organization to see if it is really a symptom of something else, someone else's workaround, or a legitimate job in and of itself. 
Think about how pet dogs protect their homes. They sense trouble early and respond vigorously, because they are one with their owners.

That's how you want to be at work. To get there you have to know what's going on, but you also have to know people. 

B. To Prepare For Your Next Job

Nowadays, no person stays in one job, one department, under one boss, for the rest of their lives. But it is possible to rotate jobs in the same organization, or to move up.

That is why it's important to lay the groundwork for future opportunities by making an effort to get out there and meet people who can mentor you, and from whom you can learn.

You can learn more about how you, your job, your department and office are perceived by others. You can learn about what the trends are in the organization, and in the community surrounding it. Some of this can come from your immediate circle, but work groups can fall into groupthink. 

It's good to get the kind of challenging thinking that comes from people at work who have a different agenda, and evaluate that against what you're hearing "at home."

You also want to talk to people who have been there a long time and who have so seen it all that they just say the truth without a filter.

The people you network with can also serve as a reference for you later on.

C. To Build Your Personal Brand

Networking internally also enables you to identify your career strengths and weaknesses. For example, I've learned that I mostly add value as a big picture thinker with sharp insight and a near-total obsession with results.

The way I get to those results is not through special technical knowledge but by finding the people who can solve a problem and getting them into a room. Investing in their development not just using them.

I've learned that I have an unusual Myers-Briggs "P" and "J" combination in that I need to be constantly creative but also have an equally strong need to get stuff done. Nobody can start so many projects and bring them to closure at 100%, and with a staff one has to watch out for burning them out with this kind of tendency.

In general, you have to step back from yourself to understand your skills, but this is impossible to do all the time. The reflection you get back from others at work, if you really pay attention to it, tells you what you should be saying about yourself on your resume, because it's true.

II. How To Do It

There are lots of ways that anybody on the planet who wants to network, can network. I have seen people extremely early in their careers do this. A lot of it comes from confidence, but even if you don't have it naturally you can build up to it over time by acting first, then feeling confident later.

Here are 10 ways to meet folks and to encourage others to meet you:

1. Attend educational events at work - the "lunch 'n' learns"
2. Stay in touch with people you meet in training
3. Get to know your customers, when you work for them on a project
4. Offer to help someone else with a project
5. Join an existing organizational task force
6. Participate in a charitable drive or special heritage day event
7. Simply introduce yourself 
8. Reach out to someone with a good reputation for a certain skill, and ask for a meeting
9. Do an on-the-job training detail for part of the time 
10. Offer internal training on a subject you feel very comfortable with

Networking is what it's all about nowadays. You don't only have to do this on LinkedIn. The connections you need are very often right under your nose.

* All opinions my own.