Google's head of G Suite got a promotion after casually chatting with a colleague. Here's how to leverage relationships within your company to land a plum career opportunity — even if you hate networking.

Diane Chaleff

  • A great way to advance at work is to forge relationships with coworkers across your company. When new opportunities come up, you want to be top of mind.
  • Google exec Diane Chaleff was offered a job as Google’s G Suite lead during a casual conversation with a colleague she’d met before. That happens pretty often at Google, she said.
  • Even beyond Google, career experts say joining employee resource groups and stopping by your boss’ office to ask their opinion can help you get on their radar.
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When she was tapped to become Google’s G Suite lead, Diane Chaleff didn’t know the position existed.

At the time, Chaleff was a product manager working primarily on Google Drive, the company’s file storage and sharing service.

Will Grannis, who is managing director of Google Cloud in the CTO Office, was building out a team of senior engineers to collaborate with Google’s largest customers. Grannis and Chaleff had met before, at events hosted by Google, but they hadn’t worked together when they started chatting about some overlapping projects.

Midway through the conversation, Chaleff remembered, Grannis casually offered her a new opportunity: “Hey, do you want to come work for me?” Chaleff agreed and Grannis is now her boss. (Google Cloud is the company’s cloud-computing unit, which includes G Suite.)

Chaleff’s experience may be par for the course at Google, which is known for encouraging employees to try new roles within the organization (internal mobility, in HR speak). But it also points to the importance of building your relationship with colleagues, regardless of where you work.

Excelling at your job is necessary, career experts say, but often it’s not sufficient. When a promotion opportunity or a spot on a critical company project opens up, you’ll want to be top of mind. Often that comes down to casual networking with coworkers in different areas of your organization.

Shuffling roles happens often at Google

Chaleff said Grannis was taken with her ability to think about Google Drive technologies in a “bigger picture way.” Specifically, she always kept in mind the end user and how the product would meet their needs. Liaising between the technologists and the customers is an important function of the Google Cloud team.

That kind of impromptu job-switching happens all the time at Google, Chaleff said. In fact, it’s a primary way for Google employees to advance in their careers.

But even beyond Google, career experts say internal networking is an integral part of career development.

Erica Keswin, a workplace strategist and a former executive coach at New York University’s Stern School of Business, previously told Business Insider that the best way to earn a promotion is to “have champions in other areas,” outside your usual team.

Keswin said a great way to forge those relationships is to join employee resource groups — for example, a group for women or for millennials. “Maybe you go in there and you take on a leadership role and you help plan events and you connect with the people,” she said. In addition to supporting a cause you care about, these are all ways of what Keswin called “broadening your reach within an organization.”

Inviting people out for coffee can be just as effective (virtual coffee dates work, too).

Laura Sapp, HR chief at the holding company IAC, previously told Business Insider that cultivating relationships across the company helped her advance in her career. Sapp started out as an executive assistant to the CEO at IAC and she’d already formed those connections by the time she applied for an HR position within the organization. The people Sapp had met for coffee took her seriously when she said, “I really want you to give me a shot, and I think I can handle this. I might not be your traditional candidate, but I really think I have the hustle and the heart to be able to make it happen.”

Networking with colleagues will help you advance, no matter where you work

Schmoozing with coworkers isn’t necessarily easy for everyone.

Karen Licitra, company group chairman at Johnson & Johnson, previously told Business Insider that forming relationships with senior colleagues can help you get ahead. But in her experience, women seem to have a harder time, say, stopping by their boss’ office with a question. It can help to remember, Licitra added, that “when you can engage your boss in what you’re thinking about, they feel like they’re more part of the team, that they’re helping you.”

As for Chaleff, she said working at Google gives people the chance to test out different career directions. But the lesson she shared applies to anyone in any organization.

“You meet hundreds, if not thousands, of people in your time at Google,” Chaleff said. At some point, one of those people might remember when you worked together on a project and say, “Do you want to consider applying for this role on my new team? I think it could be an interesting fit.”

SEE ALSO: How to use a Google strategy to cut bias from your hiring process and snag the best job candidates

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