In previous articles and posts, I’ve explained the need for professionals to have a mentor and sponsor in their arsenal, however, I also said be leery about being friends with co-workers and managers at work. There’s a big difference here between these relationships.
This difference is confusing, and so, I owe you more clarity on my advice.
First of all, mentors and sponsors are absolutely necessary for your professional growth, but building and sustaining those relationships is time-consuming, despite the many benefits (to be honest, I’ve never had any internal mentors or sponsors at any job I’ve had). It takes energy too, and sometimes there may not be a sponsor or mentor available at your workplace. However, you can start by building a work village, not just for professional advancement but for your sanity at work.
Until our society realizes the absurdity that is the five day/40hr work week we all must deal with spending the vast majority of our time at work. This where your work village comes in, your mini-community that is more than coworkers but less than close friends, supporting and learning from one another as needed.
How to Build and Cultivate Your Work Village:
Be Selective- I can’t stay this enough, but not everyone can or should be your friend. Stop letting everyone come into your life unfiltered, especially at work! That’s the first step!
Be Open- Look for coworkers and managers who work in different departments as this can help to expand your circle and expose you to other areas of the company.
Be Useful-You want to build relationships? Yes, do it! But you don’t just want to be a taker. Relationships are reciprocal, give, and take.
Be Engaging- Actively connect with those in your work village. That can include quick calls for a chat, lunch dates, working on projects or if you want, hanging outside of work. The goal is to get to know the people in your village, learn their strengths, and access their knowledge as well as sharing your own. They can also make work more fun, which is key to keeping you sane.
Be Willing to Let Go- If a relationship isn’t going the way you want then be willing to let it go and move on.
For me, a work village is more personal than a network you build on LinkedIn. A work village is people you are more likely to interact with every day. However, this doesn’t replace networking, so it's important to build both.
Once you have your work village in place then it becomes easier to deal with the many ups and downs that come with work and maybe even grow in the process.
If you are looking for a work village (you can always start online too) then join Blackness and the Workplace.