With the appropriate attribution to songwriter Joe Cocker; it’s not just a song, it’s good advice. We’ve discussed the concept of networking and not burning your bridges. Now, I’d like to address the importance of surrounding yourself with people who actually “lift you up” and aid in your success; from a business-oriented perspective, it’s important to include those individuals in your life who will help you get to where you need to go in your career.
Oftentimes, we have a tendency to include people in our circle who are unhelpful or have a deleterious effect, while we ignore those folks who can provide the biggest boost to our professional lives. For instance, you may have a person in your professional circle who has always been there, maybe a family friend or an old friend from school; well-intentioned, perhaps, but not beneficial to you in any way. This individual may have a tendency to ask for an inordinate amount of favors. He or she may be overly needy or take up too much of your time; you may have a volatile history with this person, yet the relationship continues. Conversely, you may have an opportunity to facilitate and develop a relationship with an individual in a position to assist you in a myriad of ways, but you fail to pursue this relationship because it’s too difficult, or time-consuming. The reasons are numerous but the solution to the problem is always the same: you must prioritize and continually assess and reassess your business relationships to ensure the most efficient use of your time and resources.
I do not wish to sound insensitive or uncaring, however, in a down economy, such as the one we are experiencing, sometimes we have to make tough choices and those choices can include consciously deciding in whom to invest your time and effort. Once again, from a professional standpoint, we should invest in individuals willing to reciprocate. There are certain points we should always keep in mind when making such decisions.
First, does the individual in question enhance your ability to succeed? Second, do you enjoy spending time with this person or do you feel irritable or anxious to escape his/her presence? Third, do you feel the relationship is lopsided or unfair in any way? Chances are, if you feel this way, something simply isn’t working.
I recently had a student who shared an interesting story with me. She was involved in several professional organizations and struck up a friendship with an attentive individual. This person was supposedly well-connected and breezily informed her that he would happily refer her to a myriad of Atlanta-based firms for employment (she was between positions at the time). He spoke of his numerous professional connections and his willingness to assist her with her job search. Unfortunately, he was long on bravado and short on results. He not only failed to deliver on his many promises, he ended up demanding a great deal of her time and patience. She eventually had to disengage herself from that particular group in order to eradicate his presence from her life.
A word to the wise – next time you’re in a situation where you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts and remember the old adage that you are often judged by the company you keep. So, make sure the company you keep is worth your time and effort!
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