It’s easy to think that in order to succeed, you need to put your nose to the grindstone and not “waste time” making friends, socializing, and meeting people. But the opposite is true — you need to engage, not avoid your colleagues, if you want to succeed. This does not mean you should be manipulative. Instead, focus on being authentic, staying respectful, and giving back. Relationships are only manipulative or misleading when one party disproportionately gains and does not give back. It is up to you to develop these important, mutually beneficial relationships, and leverage them in your professional growth. Focusing on forging lasting relationships is the best long-term strategy.
Become Valuable to Others
Helping others will help you feel productive and possibly even indispensable. It will also help you contribute to your team, both internally and externally. Focusing on how you can help others will also highlight areas where you need to invest in learning and teach you how to calibrate your responses depending on the size and quality of the problem. Over time, more and more people will come to you for advice and you will become a go-to person for certain problems. In the process, you will develop empathy and social awareness to help you read others, relate to others, and become even more valuable to them.
Connect personally to your colleagues. Talk about their families, their hobbies, their stories — allow them to share their passions with you. Focus on building authentic relationships. Professional relationships are important in your career progression. In the process you will become more collaborative and become an integral part of the team. Always recognize the need to strategically invest in relationships that may benefit you now or later. After all, you must work with people every day. It is a lot better when you have great relationships with them.
Expert Advice and Constructive Feedback
Know your colleagues’ expertise. Get to know what your colleagues know and reach out to them for advice. Don’t just know people. You need to know who knows what so that you can strategically leverage information and experiences to get your work done efficiently and effectively. Build a network of experts to approach when you need expert advice, such as when you’re confronted with an issue where you lack skill, knowledge, or experience. If you build a wide network of experts, when you have a difficult problem you will have people to approach and get constructive and useful feedback. Informal Mentoring Relationships
Develop informal mentorship relationships based on personal connections and the mutual exchange of advice and experiences. Involve more experienced colleagues in sharing guidance, information, and advice. These relationships may help you identify which areas of skill to develop, how to address issues that may concern you, how to navigate challenging situations, and whom you may need to know to advance. They may also calibrate your strategy and responses to difficult situations. These relationships can also put things in perspective and normalize your struggles. Finally, mentors also help you by identifying opportunities to learn and improve, pushing the limits of your abilities, assisting you in becoming a more confident professional, and helping you bounce back.
People Who Will Support You
It helps to help people who will speak well of you. A compliment or introduction from the right person can boost your reputation. Relationships can make people think positively of you merely by association. Relationships with supportive, outgoing people also help you manage making an impression, stay poised and strong, and how to keep a calm face to the world even in the middle of a storm. It never hurts to have people in your corner.
Ultimately, your best opportunities and impactful relationships will come as a result of your relationship building efforts. Moreover, to build deep and wide relationships it helps to have an open mind so you can consider many sides of different issues. Don’t write off a potential relationship simply because you think you won’t get along or the other person comes from a different background. We can learn the most from those who are different from ourselves, whether in terms of background, personality, career status, or any factor. Most importantly, intentionally developing lasting and meaningful relationships is a crucial first step toward taking control and responsibility of your career. No matter how much you build relationships, others won’t make your career happen. You need to put in the work! This means taking charge and influencing what you can at work and in life daily. Building relationships is most definitely one of those things that you can intentionally and consistently work on and influence — and over time, reap great benefits.
Olga V. Mack is a blockchain strategist, public speaker, and adjunct professor at Berkeley Law. She is a Vice President of Strategy at Quntstamp, the first decentralized security auditing blockchain platform. In the past she has served as General Counsel at ClearSlide, where she received numerous awards, and has held various roles at Visa, Zoosk, Pacific Art League, Wilson Sonsini, and Yahoo. Olga founded the Women Serve on Boards movement that advocates for women to serve on corporate boards of Fortune 500 companies. You can email Olga at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @olgavmack.