While the August jobs report may have captured most of the headlines, I was more fascinated about two recent NYTimes articles. The first discussed the decline of friendship building in U.S. workplaces.  The other discussed the importance of seeking advice at work, despite many people’s reluctance to do so. I could not help viewing them as linked. If you are friendly with your colleagues, it should be easier to seek their advice.  In my last post, I talked about the importance of networking, which I would like to expand on today.  While the water cooler may no longer be the place to congregate with co-workers, it is still critical for your own career advancement to develop meaningful confidantes, even friends, in the workplace. Despite technology providing a rich array of ways for us to connect, it seems that many U.S. workers are often alone in a crowd. I often ask my clients, who may be facing some tension at work, to identify their office allies, individuals who they can seek out for support.  Many give me a blank stare, and find it difficult to name one person, if any at all.  Allies, oftentimes mentors, are crucial for individuals to learn the unwritten rules of their office, and to navigate the unspoken politics, in order to advance.  Whether you are an entry-level employee or a seasoned veteran at a new job, the following are tips for successful networking at work:

1) Prioritize meeting colleagues

Your assigned work duties are only one aspect of your job.  One of your other primary tasks is to build a network of trusted colleagues.  We sometimes focus too much on networking outside of work. However, no matter how busy your workload is, you should include networking on the job as a part of your weekly work routine. It may mean something as simple as going to lunch or having coffee once a week with a different co-worker.  Also, make sure to attend afterwork social events, to further deepen connections.  Amidst the grind of our everyday work duties, we can neglect the value of human engagement, much to our detriment.

2) Find allies 

Whether in your work teams, departments, or affinity groups, it is critical for you to engage with like-minded, supportive people.  Although many of our work environments may engender a culture of competition and mistrust, you need to take a leap of faith to connect with some colleagues.  Relationship building takes time, so think of it as a marathon rather than as a sprint, and realize that it may involve trial & error (i.e. you may not connect well with everyone you try to engage).  Don’t be discouraged, remain optimistic that there are other folks like you in your office.

3) Seek advice and demonstrate your consideration of it

The article on advice-seeking indicated that most people don’t ask for assistance, due to a fear of appearing incompetent.  Nonetheless, the article also suggested that most people don’t listen to advice, even when they need it.  The irony of this is that the advice (that you’re not getting for fear of looking incompetent) may prevent you from actually being seen as incompetent. Therefore, it is important to embrace the reality that advice-seeking can improve others’ impressions of you in both perception and reality. Further, even if you don’t heed it fully, make sure to thank your colleague for his or her advice, and be able to articulate how you have  used it or plan to use it.  Also, be aware, if you continually blow off or dismiss advice, it can have a negative impact on your image. So, make sure to integrate the useful elements of any advice, which is given.

While these tips may not result in you taking family vacations with your co-workers (which is common in other countries), they should enable you to feel more engaged and connected at work, while creating a professional community that will benefit you today and in the future.

SHARE: Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail