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Never Burn A Bridge
The relationships we build as we go through life can be extremely valuable when navigating our careers. Take care to build close, long-lasting relationships with the people you meet. Never, ever, burn a bridge.
Although things are slightly different these days because of the pandemic, usually we interact with dozens of people on a daily basis. In fact, we typically make several new contacts every month. Our network continuously expands as we go about our daily routines. If we manage this properly, these relationships can be an extremely useful tool for advancing our careers.
On the other hand, if not handled properly, they can also be the biggest hurdle to our success. In fact, I've found that one of the best things we can do to build a successful career is to establish lasting relationships with the people we meet along the way. For me, these relationships have proven to be indispensable.
The best thing we can do to build a successful career is to establish lasting relationships with the people we meet along the way.
The connections I have made at work, throughout my career, have been extremely valuable in helping me advance my career. They have served as references when I've looked for a new job. They have also been the people that recommend me to their employers or to other people in their network for many other reasons, professional and otherwise. In fact, in the last ten, or so, years I really haven’t had to look for work at all. Every time I've switched jobs, it has been because someone in my professional network has recommended me for a position.
Having folks out there that sing your praises can make finding a job, amongst other things, a whole lot easier! There are countless situations where close professional relationships are a lifesaver. That is why we should try to expand our network every day and work at building lasting connections with the people we encounter. We run into awesome people all the time, and we should focus on growing positive, long-term, bonds with as many people as we possibly can.
You never know when one of these relationships will help you reach your next goal. In my experience, these relationships make navigating your career and reaching the goals you've set for yourself a lot easier to accomplish. At the same time, we should not underestimate how quickly these connections can work against us. We need to make sure not to burn any bridges along the way. We spend a lot of time and effort working to build these relationships and it doesn't make any sense to just throw them away.
We need to make sure not to burn any bridges along the way. We spend a lot of time and effort working to build these relationships and it doesn't make any sense to just throw them away.
There are many things you can do to building strong, long-lasting relationships with your coworkers. Here are just a few that I have used in my career.
This first thing is really easy, but for some people, it's extremely hard to do: always be yourself. Always! Odds are you're a cool cat. You should let people see you for who you are. I am not saying you shouldn't be professional--just be genuine at all times. If you're not really a tight-laced, straight-and-narrow person then don't pretend to be one at work. Let your true colors shine through.
Within reason, and when appropriate, you should allow some of your true nature to be visible wherever you are. Don't be the coworker that is one way at the office but a completely different person in other environments. It can make certain interactions feel fake once people know there are two versions of you. For me, this is a general guideline that I follow in life and I think it applies to work as well. I found it makes people feel like they really know you and not only the buttoned-up version of you. I think it helps garner those closer, longer-lasting, relationships that we are trying to build.
Another really easy but extremely important thing you can do is simply listen to people. I know, this might sound a little silly, but it makes a huge difference. When you're talking to someone, stay focused, and engaged. Listen to what they are saying and participate in the conversation even if it's not work-related. This encourages people to talk to you and makes them feel like they can come to you for personal and professional advice, to chit-chat, or maybe just to blow off some steam. All of these interactions are valuable to building a personal relationship that extends beyond work or that particular job.
If you can get someone to share three or more personal details about their life with you, they are far less likely to ever actually forget about you. When personal details are shared, you are forcing the person to categorize you as something more important in their memory than just another colleague.
Always be willing to help your coworkers out. Take every opportunity you have to be a resource to others. This might mean helping a coworker figure out a specific technical issue or being a mentor to someone that is more junior than you. Maybe a coworker just hasn't worked with a particular tool, technology or process and you can help them figure it out and not have to stumble their way through it. Or maybe you are tall and can be a help to those who are shorter. Whatever your “superpower” is, share it when asked. Offer to lend a hand!
You should keep your eyes open for opportunities to help someone get out of a jam. A lot of times, these interactions make the most positive impact with your coworkers. It seems like your value is magnified by the size of the problem you are helping resolve. I've experienced this from both ends. I definitely value the many people that have helped me figure things out or gotten me out of a jam. I've also seen just how much helping others helps build the type of positive working relationships that I've tried to establish.
You should always be open to feedback. In most cases, people are actually trying to help you out when they give you feedback or suggestions. Of course, you'll run into some people that have a different agenda, but you should hear those people out as well. Never, ever, ever react emotionally. It only plays into that person's agenda and makes you look rattled to others. You should always consider the merits of the feedback, discuss it professionally with that person, and determine whether to accept it based on fact and not emotion.
Never, ever, ever react emotionally. It only plays into that person's agenda and makes you look rattled to others.
A crucial part of a strong relationship is feeling that you can tell that person when you think they are wrong (or not quite right), and knowing that they won't blow up or just ignore you. I know it makes a huge difference in my work relationships--and personal--when I feel comfortable that if I disagree with that person, we can have a discussion about it and not end up in an argument.
Above all else, be professional. Don't ever be disrespectful, condescending or aggressive. Treat your coworkers with the respect that they deserve. You don't want to be the person in the office that people feel they can't approach. You want your coworkers to feel like they can talk to you and you won't make them feel uncomfortable. I've never really understood why anyone would disrespect their coworkers. This kind of behavior, and the negative feelings that it creates, can follow you wherever you go and can be very difficult to overcome.
I've worked with some really smart people that are great at their jobs, but they choose to be negative and unprofessional. I've never felt comfortable recommending them for other positions. Whenever I am asked if I know someone that does "XYZ," I don't consider recommending these people even though they might do it better than anyone else I know. I am just not able to get over the way they treat people and I don't want to subject others to it. So, don't be that person.