Why Friends are Important to Our Careers

20171028 - Friends and Careers

This time last week, I was in Minnesota with three amazing friends for a weekend getaway. The day before we had re-united, exploring Minneapolis at the sculpture park and watching the magnificence of the Mississippi River and the beauty of nature in the city alongside it. As overscheduled and overcommitted people, we try to catch up when we can, but with time differences, work travel, long days, and personal responsibilities, it is hard to get more than a few texts in even if two of us live twenty minutes away from each other.

Sunday night I returned home, exhausted from the weekend. It was a happy, punchy exhausted – tired from too many laughs, heart to hearts, and deep questions leading to thoughtful and even deeper conversations. My happiness bucket was filled in a way only time with amazing friends can do.  Getting away and focusing on each other and celebrating our friendship had long lasting effects this week, including decreased stress levels from remembering the funniest moments.

Monday morning back at work, despite a shorter night’s sleep than I would normally like to start the week, I noticed I was more focused than usual. I was buoyant, almost, able to face any challenge. I was ready to take on the day and whatever came my way. What a surprising reaction! But in all actuality, it isn’t. Friendship is critically important not only in our lives, but in a more focused way, also on our careers. From support to revelry and everything in between, friends are there for us. It may be next door, across town, a state away or across the country or world, but a phone call or text or email with a word of encouragement can be exactly what we need. And who knows what we need even just as well as we do than our friends?

There are two primary types of friends related to your career: life friends and work friends. Both types of these friends have benefits, but not one hundred percent with upside. I tend to find that life friends provide greater value and benefit than work friends. The expanse of topics you can cover is almost endless – you’re only limited by the amount of privacy you and your friends like to have in their lives. Conversations with my friends related to work open up topics I’d never think to broach with work friends, including pay equity, harassment, and ambition. The answers are honest and may come with advice from lessons learned the hard way.

The better opportunity than even having work friends goes straight back to mentorship and sponsorship. The benefits of these kind of relationships are all over the internet, so I won’t rehash them, but it is something you should pursue if the opportunity arises. Each of friends, mentors, and sponsors all bring office politics into play, but mentors and sponsors are the only way to truly rise above it. Unless you are friends at work with others who yield greater influence, it is likely that you need to recuse yourself from certain discussions or avoid taking sides so that

Sometimes I find that my “life friends” are my best career mentors, even as peers and in different industries. There are some truths and situations that are consistent no matter what you do for a career, from bad bosses to good bosses and finding new jobs to gunning for promotions. The politics may be different between organizations, but the talks I’ve had with my friends are comforting – I might be taking the best action I can, the gaffe was not as bad as I worked it up to be, or they struggled with the same thing and here is how this friend addressed it. They’ve also been a wake up call, that maybe I do need a change or to work harder or re-think my attitude. We’ve focused on the positive, dwelled on the negative, and always look for the opportunity in any situation for not only ourselves, but each other. Sometimes a friend is simply a listening ear – and this is less simple than you would think to be an engaged, active, supportive listener! In the past, a friend has been even more incredulous about a scenario than I was, and that is empowering to me to step up and take action or recognize worth or feelings.

Friends care about our feelings and well being, and look at us as a whole person and not just an employee. This makes a considerable difference as to what we can attain in our lives personally, and not just professionally. Whether it is seeking happiness or love or health, we sometimes need to remember that it isn’t all about work and that we are whole people. It takes someone to remind us to get a good night’s sleep, to hit the grocery store instead of another night of take out, find our zone in a favorite workout, and to go do something fun. When my friends have reminded me of these type of actions and self-respect, I feel cared for and begin to re-detect a need for “balance”, whatever balance means in that moment.

I’m thankful for my friends, no matter how often or not often enough I have to see them, and however we are able to communicate (or on many occasions… not communicate, unfortunately.) Knowing the love of a friend picks us up, and it can take a flight from BOS to MSP to remind us of how good life really is. Hearing a “thank you” or a laugh or a “love ya”, whether in real time or in our hearts, can carry us forward and remind us what is important in life and to us in all aspects of each of our lives, including goals and aspirations in all arenas. Friends provide support for our professional selves, or a break away from it. Be sure to cherish and cultivate your friendships, for it leads to happiness, confidence, and success if you let it.

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