BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

The Power of Friends In and Out of the Workplace

Posted by egehl on July 6, 2010

Growing up as an only child with a small family spread out domestically and internationally, my parents always stressed the importance of making friends.  During my childhood and now into my adult years, friends have always been my life line and vitally important to my social, emotional and intellectual development.  I now realize that learning early on how to make and sustain friendships has been fundamental to my personal and professional well-being as an adult.

Over the years, friends have played such a large role in all aspects of my life.  I consider them family, valued colleagues, steadfast supporters, inspiring role models and enjoyable companions that make me laugh and grow.  I have made friends at school, work, sports games, professional events, summer camp, volunteering, traveling, and through other friends. 

Ideally in both your personal and professional worlds friends will become networks that continue growing and expanding with each new experience.  And as a result more fun is had, jobs are found, things are learned and life feels more fulfilling. 

To be a good friend can be a tricky balance.   You have to give of yourself, but not to the point of losing yourself.   You need to stay true to who are you and go after your goals while at the same time helping others achieve their dreams too.  You need to have a personality that naturally attracts people while at the same time making room for other’s sometimes very different traits. Friendship is always a give and take, but ultimately the best ones have a happy and healthy balance. 

A study revealed that friendships in high school were a strong predictor of increased wages in adulthood — to the tune of 2% per person who considered you a close friend.  In other words, if in high school three people listed you as one of their closest same-sex friends, your earnings in adulthood would be 6% higher.

Cleary having friends is a winning strategy in life, but what about in the workplace?

Making friends for professional reasons is usually referred to as networking, but ultimately building your networks is making friends or acquaintances.  Bottom line is if you’re looking for a job you’d better have strong networks because the number-one way people find new jobs is referrals through friends.  And in this job market, it’s not a luxury anymore but a requirement. 

Understandably networking and making new friends can bring on anxiety for many people.  As we get older meeting people and forming new friendships gets progressively harder and harder, so often times people shy away from it.

However there are various avenues to meet new people in less pretentious and more comfortable ways than simply cocktail parties, work events and other structured environments.  Today’s workers, especially young professionals, join professional organizations, volunteer, take a class, play sports, take on leadership roles in their community or use social networking to meet people.  Whatever you do, just “put yourself out there” and the risk will pay off in the long run. 

In addition, making friends related to your professional development isn’t just reserved for networking and finding a new job.  It’s also important for staying in the job you have.  Let’s face it all workplaces have office politics.  While your work ethic and quality of deliverables should be the defining factor of your success, if you don’t make friends or at least get to know the people you work with your ability to thrive will be severely hampered. 

In the long-run if you build relationships with your coworkers, you will be treated more respectfully, generally well-liked which may increase your chance for a promotion or raise, and possibly less apt to be laid off since it’s much harder to fire a friend.  No matter how secure you think your job is everyone is fearful about getting laid off because of cut backs and financial squeezes.  So to help your cause build relationships and be friendly with your coworkers, it will pay off. 

Friends have been at the backbone of my life both personally and professionally, and brought endless amounts of joy and happiness.  Whether it’s someone to have fun with or a respected colleague in your field that might lead to the next opportunity, it’s important to cultivate friendships.  I don’t know where I would be today without them.

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