Expand your social circle — why branching out can help your career
Diversifying your friendship network can be the key to career success
In the cut-throat world of business you might think it’s a case of either “backstab or be stabbed”. But actually the reverse is true — connecting with other people in your team and wider industry can be an excellent way to learn about new opportunities and gain advice and support. And this starts with branching out from your current social circle.
This doesn’t mean ditching your childhood mates. The friends you make growing up with are probably the most important of your life. But only choosing to socialise with one group of people because it’s easy or safe, can lead to you missing out in a career sense. You might not end up being as close to work or business acquaintances, but it doesn’t mean these connections aren’t also important. Having a wide range of friends also makes you less reliant on that handful of close mates, especially if they’re embarking on new adventures of their own and may not be around as much.
Having a wide social network makes meeting new people less intimidating. People you work with or meet at networking events might make you feel outnumbered in terms of gender, age group or ethnicity — the majority of them might come from a different background, culture or even country. You might feel as if you don’t have anything in common with these people — making you less inclined to chat in case the conversation dries up. But you could have more in common than you realise — for one thing, you work in the same industry! Having a diverse range of friends allows you to feel less like a fish out of water in work situations and well-versed in talking to people from different walks of life.
It can allow you to broaden your views, hobbies and even career choices. Befriending someone who is very different to the people you’d normally encounter could offer you a different perspective on life. Whereas your friends from home and school might all be of a similar opinion, someone from a different background or age bracket might offer an alternative take on a situation. So when it comes to work or life advice, having friends with a diverse range of opinions to call on can prove useful. They might also introduce you to career paths you might not even have known existed!
It can lead to all-important opportunities. Expanding your friendship group can lead to you finding out about interesting events, career paths and job opportunities that you otherwise wouldn’t have heard of. Many jobs aren’t advertised externally, but through “word of mouth”, so if you’re close to people in your company or industry you’re more likely to hear about a particular role or project.
Obviously a person isn’t just a springboard to your next promotion (and you will get sussed out pretty quickly if you do treat people like this). But if you can forge a genuine friendship and connection with someone and further your career at the same time, then it’s a win-win situation. However, it’s important to show gratitude for any hand-ups you’re given, whether that’s taking someone out for drinks, providing a listening ear or just showing an interest in them and their life. It goes without saying that friendships are a two-way street, so the other person needs to be getting as much out of the connection as you are.
Looking for ways you can branch out in a social sense? Getting matched with a mentor can lead to a life-long connection with someone you might not otherwise meet in everyday life. They can also connect you with other people in your field that can lead to other valuable friendships. Otherwise, networking events are great places to meet people, as are clubs like sports teams and book groups. You might feel reluctant to participate in social activities with your colleagues after work when you just want to go home and relax, but you never know where a casual conversation could lead. And make sure you keep in touch and regularly check in with ex-colleagues after you’ve finished working together. A little effort goes a long way.
Getting matched with a mentor is your first step to broadening your social connections. Click here to find out more.