Making New Friends is a Form of Networking

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By Leia O’Connell, MSW

Contributor, Career Coach

I’ve often envied those who say they still spend time with their kindergarten classmates. I’ve been told, “Why make new friends when I have these long-time relationships?” I’ve also encountered co-workers who told me that they don’t invest in friendships at work as they wish to “Keep work separate from their personal life.” I maintain that those who choose not to make new friends, not only miss out on the joys of adding people to their life, but lose out on potential opportunities for career advancement through networking. I’m at a new job and everyone else is already friends If you’re just starting out at a new place, it can be hard to break into long-standing friendships. When you’re new, I suggest taking advantage of every opportunity afforded to you. Volunteer for projects, especially those which benefit other staff. Don’t wait to be invited to lunch or an after-work event; invite them. I realize there is the possibility of being rejected, which might not feel great. But, by putting yourself out there, you’re creating opportunities for yourself instead of waiting for them to come to you. It doesn’t always work out, but sometimes…it does! I don’t make friends to network – I just want to be friends.

Assume that you’re going to be the one who needs to take the first step with making new friends. It isn’t always easy and those flashbacks of trying to make friends in school often don’t help

LEIA O’CONNELL, CAREER COACH

I’m not suggesting that you should create friendships for the sole purpose of networking. Think of making new friends as a way to expand your network. Investing in others is an investment in yourself as well. Years ago, I asked one of my colleagues in graduate school if she would like to get coffee sometime.

Three years later, after becoming close friends, she was able to help get me a job during a time when I was transitioning from one career field to another. I didn’t ask her for coffee with the intent of getting a job three years down the line, but that opportunity wouldn’t have been available if I hadn’t added her to my network.

I don’t like any of the people I work with This is one I’ve heard often. Okay, you don’t like the people you work with, but maybe you like your job or maybe you need your job. You can add professional contacts outside of the office; consider volunteering at a local organization you’re passionate about or joining a professional network which meets up in person. Don’t limit your opportunities to those who immediately surround you – start connecting with your community.

Assume that you’re going to be the one who needs to take the first step with making new friends. It isn’t always easy and those flashbacks of trying to make friends in school often don’t help. But, I’ve found many times over that opportunities do not simply fall out of the sky – they appear through friends and co-workers who know me. Other people are the best conduits to new paths and lunch is always better with a friend!

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