Those senior executives that are either in transition now, or have been in the last 5 years, know that networking plays a key role in finding their next opportunity. The old adage of “who you know” has been changed to “who knows you” and it’s amazing to see how people that never networked before in successful careers that spanned over 20 years have become experts at building relationships in a short period of time.

What amazes me however is that while networking plays a key role during a job transition, people don’t focus on it while they’re working. At the most senior levels of a company, CFO, SVP HR, CIO, CEO for example, “in-networking” is a critical competency for them to perform their jobs successfully. However, even in these roles at a major division level, I still find people that aren’t very well networked throughout their corporations, outside of their own division or subsidiary.

What is In-Networking?
In my definition, it’s getting to know your superiors, peers, and subordinates in other divisions of your corporation – people whom you might not come in contact with on a regular basis. If you’re a VP of Product Management, it might mean that you reach out to the CFO or Controller of the company, and ask them to get together to find out more about what they do, and how that might have an impact on your job and your business objectives. It also means finding out how what you do affects them.

Many companies operate in silos, and their mid and senior executives only network during management meetings, and then only in large groups. They work together on necessary projects, but otherwise don’t interact often, and really don’t have an understanding of what each other do for the company.

Why is in-networking important?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met with a senior or mid-level executive whose job was eliminated at a pretty large, and pretty good company. If this was an executive that was not a top performer, I can see why they were let go. However, I meet with a lot of very strong people and I’m surprised that their company released them. In fact, some of these folks become candidates in searches I perform for clients, and when I drill down on their career success, I find someone that has done a great job of “taking the hill” when charged with that by their general (military terminology here), but is not known by other generals in the company. When the restructuring inevitably comes, the people in power don’t know them, and therefore they are not protected when their division is consolidated into another, or their job is eliminated.

Why is it that some people seem to find new opportunities in perpetually restructuring companies?
The people in power know them, like them, and protect them because they don’t want to lose them. And when an opportunity to take on a new, exciting role in a company comes up, if enough generals know them, they get considered even if they’ve never done the job before. Some people refer to this as playing the game, or playing company politics. That might be true, but in my mind, I play the same game with my clients – I make sure they know me well and what I’m good at, so that when an opportunity arises to utilize my skills, I get the nod.

How can you accomplish this and still stay focused on doing your job?
There are about 22 lunches and 22 breakfasts each month. That’s 44 opportunities to meet other senior people in your company. If you take less than 10% of those – 4 a month – and reach out to leaders in other divisions in the company to get together and learn more about what they do, you can build a significant number of powerful relationships, in a short period of time. You will also hear about new opportunities that haven’t even been published yet in your company, and will have a long list of generals to call if you get the word that your job or your group is being eliminated. Who’s going to turn you down if you call them and introduce yourself, and say you’d like to get together and learn more about their function and how your respective functions affect each other? I would bet you’ll have almost a 100% success rate.

In-networking: It’s who knows you and what they say about you.

Agree or disagree? Please share your thoughts and experiences.