Social media: The limits of online networking |

Social media: The limits of online networking

Social media has made it possible for the Average Jane to build a professional network that spans the globe. With LinkedIn and other social networking websites, countless contacts are a click away. But on-the-job networking across departments may yield greater rewards, or at least more immediate ones.

In a medium- to large-sized firm, it’s not unheard of for a person to be laid off by one department only to be hired by another. A laid-off employee who has built relationships within the division that is hiring might be top of mind and considered preferable to someone with no history or experience with the company, says Brandi Britton, senior regional vice president of the global staffing firm OfficeTeam, Los Angeles.

Internal networking contacts also might bring opportunities to the laid-off employee’s attention or make referrals on his or her behalf.

On the flip side, a hiring manager with a strong internal network might have job candidates referred by colleagues who understand what he or she needs to succeed, Britton says.

An employee need not be eyeing jobs in other departments to benefit from internal networking.

“It never hurts to learn as much as possible about your company and its employees at every level,” Britton says.

One possible payoff is having advocates across the company who will do what it takes to get a stalled project back on schedule.

A word of caution: In some cases fraternizing may be frowned upon, especially where interdepartmental politics are involved. It also can be perceived as interfering with productivity.

“Be careful not to become overly involved. At the end of the day, you’re still working for your group and responsible for its success,” Britton says.

Networking internally starts with making an effort to get to know people better when departments work together.

“Go a step further so instead of e-mailing status reports and questions, talk with people face to face,” Britton says.

Volunteering for a committee that involves other divisions also is a good way to build relationships, as is joining professional organizations that provide opportunities to connect with colleagues outside of work.

A scattershot or half-hearted approach to internal networking won’t reap as many rewards. Set goals and strategize, says career consultant Ellen Sautter, Right Management, Atlanta.

She recommends creating a “target list” of influential people who generate buzz, lead plum projects and make important decisions. Her colleague, Diane Crompton, suggests using LinkedIn to find key players and other social media to learn about their personal interests.