New Blog Column–Getting Ready for the Workplace: Relationships
Are you ready for your first full-time position?
Yes, you’ve completed your university studies. Yes, you have a marketable degree. Yes, you have graduated from a prestigious university, Georgia Institute of Technology. Yes, you even know what you want to do with your career and are eager to get started with your career.
But on your first day of work when you walk in the door of your workplace, will you be ready for workplace challenges? In this new blog column, we will address a series of workplace issues from business etiquette and office politics to time management and networking.
Today, we are talking about professional relationships in the workplace. Vivian Giang, in her article, “The 4 Most Important Relationships You Need at Work,” in Open Forum, describes four key relationships you will need to identify, build and manage in the workplace and this process begins the moment you enter your workplace. (Remember: first impressions are very important!) Although Giang is speaking to small business owners, her advice is relevant for all professionals, particularly in an era when “professional branding” and “professional networking” are strongly emphasized for professional entry and advancement. We draw on her insights and apply them to Public Policy students and graduates.
1. Targeted Relationships
Even before you enter your first worplace, you should have already identified some targeted relationships, that is, your peers and competitors. How might you do this? Start with your classmates as a student. Then consider alumni from your degree program. Then network at professional association events. Pick up business cards along the way. Add as many peers and “friendly” competitors to your professional network via your LinkedIn profile. Start networking. Start learning. Evaluate your competition. Build alliances. Don’t start your first day on the job without a professional network.
Then, once you start that first job out of college, start building alliances and networking within your own workplace. Learn how relationships are expressed within the organizational culture. Listen for insights into the behavior and reputations of others. Start “branding” yourself by consciously building your repuation. Are you the “technically competent” worker? The “negotiator”? The “problem-solver”? The “organizational man”? The “P.R. person” for your group? What sets you apart from others in a positive, progressive way?
2. Tentative Relationships
But it is likely that when you walk in that workplace for the first time, you may know almost nobody, so you will start with more tentative relationships. Start those “tentative relationships” with others immediately. Introduce yourself to your colleagues. Don’t wait for them to greet you. Go to lunch with your work group. But don’t become “that guy who is always asking for help.” Try to solve your own problems. Instead, learn about your colleagues. What have they contributed to the organization? Compliment them on their accomplishments. Identify what information or resources your colleagues might want. If you have it, share it. This is about finding your place within an existing organizational ecology and work group.
3. Transactional Relationships
Your work will likely enable you to interact with clients or stakeholders or other important business relationships outside of your workplace. These are important relationships too. They cannot be neglected. As your “tentative relationships” to share their insights on those outside “transactional relationships.” Understand their goals, needs, behaviors, and preferences, so that you can respond most effectively with them. Build a databases of these clients or vendors. Know when and where you will interact with them. It could be your tomorrow. You “brand” yourself with them as well. You want them to see you as a credible and competent representative of your organization. Remember: if they are not happy with your performace, your supervisor will likely hear from them.
4. Trusted Relationships
Over time, learn who you can “trust” in your workplace. Search for a potential mentor. She need not be in your work group or even in your particular career pathway. Don’t rush the search for a mentor. Let it develop naturally over time. Let it be offered to you either directly or implied. Demonstrate on day one that you are a trustworthy person. Show integrity in all things. Be reliable in all things. Maintain confidences at all times. Avoid office gossip. Don’t spread rumors.
Building trusted relationships might happen spontaneously or it might take months or years to build. Be patient with each person. Let each relationship build naturally over time. Show respect and consideration at every opportunity.
If you understand how to identify, build and maintain relationships, you will acquire additional professional credibility. Your reputation will be enhanced. But don’t wait for that first day at work to begin practicing. Start today. Identify the types of relationships you have with professors, fellow classmates, and others where you might have a part-time job.
You can walk into your first workplace skilled at identifying, building and maintaining all types of relationships. Use LinkedIn.com to build your network. Add notes on people’s profile to help you identify the type of relationship you have with them and how you might build it further. Be strategic. Be persistent. Be consistent. Start today.