It's More Than Just a Job - It's a Network

By Frank Traditi

Do you realize how valuable your workplace relationships are to your career?

In a recent coaching session, my client and I were discussing how critical it is to never stop developing relationships with people who can positively impact your life and career. What became clear to him was that an incredible network of people had been sitting next to him all these years - in the workplace.

He wished he had spent more time with more people within the various companies throughout his career and kept track of their career paths over the years. He never gave a moment's thought that everyone he interacted with at work might help him in future career moves. Instead, he felt like millions of other employees -- that it's just a job. He failed to realize that his coworkers are all excellent sources for helping find a great job.

If most of us were to count the hours we spend with coworkers on a weekly basis, it would easily outstrip the time we spend with friends and family. In some instances, we spend nearly 80% of our waking days with people from the workplace. You may be working alongside them for 8-10 hours each day and, in addition, may spend hours after work in a social setting. Start adding this all up and your workplace friends might know you better than some close family members.

What you may not realize is just how powerful this group of people can be in helping shape your career. The immediate benefit of expanding your network of coworkers is to help you advance your career or changing jobs within the company. Knowing the right people, developing powerful relationships, and demonstrating your unique talents and skills to them can be the right combination for getting that promotion you deserve.

You will gain another significant benefit from your network of current or former coworkers. When the time comes to make a career change, voluntarily or not, your ties to coworkers may be the ticket to landing your next job. You have built-in relationships through your day-to-day conversations and teamwork. The longer you work with someone, the more they know about your special abilities. Your office mates can eventually become networking sources for connecting you with the people they know. A close coworker just might be married to a hiring manager at a company you've had your eye on for your next career move. Her next door neighbor might be the vice president at another company you've long admired.

Your network of coworkers extends beyond just the people with whom you work. Consider how many people your coworkers connect with on a daily basis. Their friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues outside of work are potential connections for open positions, company information, and referrals for your job search.

Whether you are currently employed or in transition, the time is now to think about nurturing relationships with people in your current and past workplaces. Is it too late to start? Absolutely not. Can you build your in-house network while you are working, even if you are not planning a job change in the near future? You sure can. Here are some thoughts and ideas about how to create your coworker network.

Start with the "golden rule." Creating a network starts with helping people. Every chance you get to assist a coworker with a challenge, question, complex issue, take it. A good relationship is built on helping other people succeed and solve problems. Once they experience your help, they feel obligated to reciprocate. Their help may not come back to you immediately. However, at just the right time when you need to connect with someone in their network, you can call on them when you are in full job search mode.

Show interest in your coworkers lives. You don't have to be intrusive or learn about all the nitty-gritty details of their personal lives. Ask about their families, spouse, partners and other special people in their lives. Maybe learn more about where their significant other works. Show up at their kids concert or sporting event. Tell them how much you enjoyed seeing them perform. People love to talk about their friends and families. Don't be afraid to share in their excitement. You won't believe how far this goes.

Develop relationships with senior management at your company. People on the outside of your company are always trying to get an audience with executive team and many times fail. In many cases, you can simply pick up the phone and talk directly with a senior level person in your company. Take advantage of these opportunities to develop relationships with influential people in your company. If you are in job search mode and need to connect with powerful people, you've already nurtured a good relationship with an executive.

Keep track of all your coworker contacts. Make sure you get phone numbers, emails, and addresses of those who you know will help you down the road. If someone moves on to another company, get their new company information. If someone moves out of town or out of state, ask for their new address. You never know when you might need to contact them again.

Do it every day. Don't let a day go by without taking the opportunity to strengthen a relationship or build a new one. Look for ways to connect with people in other departments, new managers, executives or anyone you feel could be an influence your life. If or when you are in job search mode, these relationships can be the ticket to your success.

When you wake up tomorrow and head off to work or plan out your day for the job search campaign, consider how valuable your connections at work are and what you can do to help them. It will come back to you when you need it most.

Copyright © 2005, Frank Traditi

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