In a recent webinar on latticing I presented for Canadian Women In Communications, a participant asked how to detect good lateral opportunities within her company. Her question is a common one; opportunities can be opaque to rank-and-file workers, according to the most recent Accenture Skills Gap study. While bosses presumably have a bird’s eye view of short and longer-term lateral assignments, it’s frustrating to hear about them only after they are filled.
Here’s the silver bullet: the Employee Resource Group, or ERG. “Affinity groups” took root about 15 years ago, mainly as a way for women and minorities to find each other in large organizations. Smart companies realized that ERG’s were built-in focus groups. Smart employees realized that the horizontal nature of such groups meant that they had a great chance of meeting higher-ups with whom they already had something in common, as recently explained in the Wall St. Journal.
As I outline in The Career Lattice, ERG’s are a rich lode for self-promotion, especially if you need to cultivate skills that are outside your official job description. Here’s how to aim the silver bullet that is an ERG: look for new connections in adjacent functions or departments. These are the folks with whom you will naturally intersect on a project at some point. Use the ERG to get to know them before your work responsibilities collide – so you can be each other’s friends in lateral places.