In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews.
If you think about it, you probably share the complaint a lot of people have about later-in-life friendships: they just are not as deep and meaningful as the ones you formed during and before college. We tend to think this is because when we are younger, we are more open to others and more vulnerable. We are still trying to figure out who we are, and the people who play a role in that process become eternally important to us.
That may all be true, but there is another reason why friendships formed earlier in life have greater longevity. It is because they developed within a network. In our youth, we are still traveling in packs, forced by school and social activities into a group environment on a daily basis. We are inherently always spending time with multiple people and developing friendships with many people at once.
Friday you go to the movies with Ernesto, Ryan, and Amanda. Tuesday night, you study at the coffee shop with Ernesto, Ryan, and Carter. Then lunch with Carter and Kevin on Wednesday, followed by dinner with Kevin, Ryan, Amanda, and Jeni. Then those people are all hanging out with each other without you, too. In this environment, our awareness and appreciation for others evolves rapidly because we see them in a variety of contexts, with different personalities, and then can reflect and—if we are honest about it—gossip about them when they are not there. We get to know them much better as a result of the variety of interactions. This is part of what turns them into lifelong friends.
What most of us lose in our professional lives is this natural group context in which to build relationships. But that is okay; you can make this happen for yourself anyway. You do it by connecting the people in your network to each other. If you are playing mini golf this weekend with two work friends, invite a college friend and someone you met at a networking event to join. If you are checking out some live music Tuesday night, invite your friend’s girlfriend, her friends, and a work colleague. Having coffee with an old friend who works near your office? Invite a work colleague to join. We should not have to tell you to be sure to behave professionally in these situations.