Being the new kid on the block at work can be lonely. It takes some time and effort to figure out the company’s culture and become recognized as a member of the team. This is especially true if you are part of an underrepresented group at your organization. For example, you may identify as a member of the LGBTQ community or have a disability.
If you’re looking for a way to connect with co-workers who have similar experiences, you may want to consider joining an employee network (also known as an affinity group or an employee resource group). There are many benefits, including increased engagement at work and career advancement.
The Cheat Sheet spoke with Bank of America’s Senior Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, Sandra Quince, for tips on joining an employee network. Here’s a peek into our chat.
The Cheat Sheet: How does an employee network assist with career advancement?
Sandra Quince: Beyond the obvious opportunities employees have to network with colleagues outside of their direct team, employee networks help employees understand the value of having a strategic plan to advancing one’s career. A key way is through the development sessions our employee networks host with both internal leaders on how to get to that next step, as well as external speakers who provide insight on ways to develop core leadership competencies. Each year, these sessions provide more than 1,000 hours of informal learning, maximizing our global intelligence and leadership capability.
CS: What are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to participating in an employee network?
SQ: Do get involved in a network that takes you out of your comfort zone or that is different than your previous experiences. Employee networks offer an opportunity to expand our thinking and perspective. Do get involved because you are passionate about advancing diversity and inclusion at your organization. And don’t underestimate the value of employee networks when it comes to gaining experience, exposure, and education.
CS: What should an employee do if their company does not offer an employee network?
SQ: Start the dialogue. It might not be so much that your organization does not want an employee network; they might not realize the opportunity. Bring groups of people together informally to discuss career/leadership development. Find mentors outside of your team. Then bring what you’ve learned to leadership to help advocate for employee networks.
CS: What are some other ways to advance besides an employee network?
SQ: Career advancement is all about having a plan and understanding you are responsible for creating and executing that plan. Employee networks are one avenue to advance your career, but there are many other ways to career advancement, some of which include looking for ways to expand your internal network — who knows you and your value and who do you know? Discuss with your manager your career development/advancement goals and begin putting a plan in place to expand your network. Create opportunities to gain additional experiences such as leading a project or job shadowing to learn more about another role.