Any very large company has teams who are not aware of what other teams are doing. It’s simply impossible for any one individual to keep track of all of the activity within a company after it passes a certain size. This introduces a few new challenges:
- How do you avoid duplication of work and use funding and resources efficiently?
- How do you share information and projects of common interest?
- As an employee, how do you find and become involved in the projects that relate to your strengths and growth objectives?
The third question is the one that I am most interested in on a day-to-day basis, since my focus is on being an employee rather than improving organizational process (although I’d love to tackle that problem, too). Over the last few years, I’ve asked others in my company how they’ve navigated an enormous and complex organization to find the projects they feel passionate about. How do they get matched with the right people and projects?
Surprisingly, I’ve gotten basically the same answer from every single person. The core technique for people who frequently match with projects that grow their skills and align with their passion is networking with a twist. It works like this:
Figure out what makes you feel excited at work. What types of projects or tasks challenge you in a good way? If you could work on a big project, what type of project would it be? Work on really clearly articulating this.
Now, you’re going to tell people. When you meet new people at your company and introduce yourself, describe yourself in terms of your passion project. For me, this might look like:
“Hi, I’m Amy. I’m a psychologist and my focus is understanding what product users need to change their behaviors, and figuring out what kind of product features are needed to support that. I especially love doing this for international projects where you also have to understand cultural influences.“
You might also mention specific projects you’ve previously worked on, if your audience may be familiar with them.
Not only do you want to introduce yourself to new people in terms of your passion area, you also want to re-brand yourself in terms of that area with the people you already know. This may take time, but if you’re watching for them, you’ll see opportunities to mention your interests. Think about the following types of insertions:
- “I’m just thinking about how we can make sure this is appropriate cross-culturally. Have you thought about Feature X?”
- “I like that idea because it aligns a product feature with a user need.”
- “I’d like to handle that assignment, since it’s related to the work I’m doing with the results of the user testing for the new requirements.”
With repetition and consistency, others will begin to connect you with the areas you want to work in. The effect will be further strengthened to the extent that you can also deliver results that are clearly connected to your passion area.
The idea is that you want to make as many people as possible aware of your interests and skills, so that when an opportunity arises related to what you want to do, your name is the one that comes up. By creating a reputation as someone with a focus on a particular area, you can make it more likely that you will be tapped to join the teams and projects you want.
It’s a different way to think about self-promotion. Rather than bragging on what you have done, think about positioning yourself for what you might do in the future.
How have you shaped your own reputation at work? What is your best tip for aligning yourself with the projects you most want to work on?