How to Get Noticed at Work: Be a Cross Functional Whiz

Last Updated Apr 1, 2010 10:14 AM EDT

Ambitious office newbies are always looking for an edge -- a way they can stand out from the pack and get noticed. So how can you make yourself indispensable to the team? In short, solve a problem, and as author Alexandra Levit points out on her blog, one of the most common issues that plague offices is a failure to properly communicate between departments. If you want to be known as a whiz kid, then one way is to be a cross functional bridge, getting your accounting team's software problem sorted by IT, or vice versa.
Levit explains: "the person who interacts seamlessly across departments would be a valued team member â€" a team member whom your group relies on to get things done and is least likely to be sacrificed in a layoff." How do you make yourself that person? She has five suggestions:
  • E-mail your contacts from orientation: During the day or two you spent with HR at the beginning of your tenure, was there anyone who seemed interesting and went on to work in a different discipline? Invite her to lunch and find out more about her personally and professionally. Work to strengthen the relationship over time so that you have a friend to call on when your group needs something from that department.
  • Study the other departments: In order to be a cross-functional whiz, it helps to have a solid understanding of what the other groups in your organization do. Pretend you are interviewing for a position in each department and study the relevant online and offline materials.
  • Walk around the building once a week: Slot a half hour to grab your coffee and meander around the floors of your office. While you shouldn't stop and chit chat for too long, it's a good idea to say an in-person hello to people in other departments so that they can put a name with a face the next time you contact them.
  • Engender cooperation: Always keep in mind that colleagues (especially those not in your group) don't care what you want -- they want to know what's in it for them. By approaching negotiations with an attitude that allows both parties to win, you'll be more effective at eliciting cooperation and ultimately getting what your group needs.
  • Be the mediator: If a dispute between two colleagues is causing a breakdown in communication and/or effectiveness between departments, set up a formal meeting to discuss the issues. Once you are all together, tell the arguers that you wish to clear the air by talking to them one at a time about the situation and then allowing the other to respond to what was just said. Remain impartial and encourage the arguers to come to a mutually-satisfactory resolution.
If you are very junior, you may come across as stepping on some toes with the last suggestion, but it's a good idea to keep in mind when you rise to middle management. And if you master the art of interdepartmental communication, that rise should come quickly.

(Panoramic bridge image by Randy Wick, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.