Relationships Matter–For Your Career and Your Life

Relationships don’t just happen–at least, the ones that matter don’t. And in my book, those are the only ones worth spending much time and energy on. Whether it’s in relation to your ongoing career success or to your non-work-related life, you can’t afford to ignore the value and importance of building and nurturing strong relationships. That’s true whether or not they produce any short-term benefits for you personally.

Relationships Are Everything

That’s the title of a recent post by Jon Gordon on his blog, which I follow regularly. I can’t reproduce the entire post here, but you can click on the link above and go right to it. Briefly, Gordon explains how a positive relationship with a high school friend led to two television program appearances spaced 9 years apart, even though he had had no contact with the TV producer during the intervening years.

As he states in the blog post, “relationships are everything and you never know which relationships will change the course of your life.” He then goes on to give four pieces of thoughtful advice:

  • Don’t chase dollars or success. Decide to make a difference and build meaningful relationships and success will find you.
  • Don’t be a networker. Invest in relationships not because you want something but because you want to build something!
  • Don’t ignore those who are closest to you. Identify the relationships in your life that need to be stronger and then make a conscious effort to focus on them, make time for them, develop them and invest in them.
  • And be nice to everyone. Because you never know.

Selectivity in Building Career Relationships

Now I’m going to say something that might at first glance seem to run counter to Gordon’s wise counsel. You need to practice selectivity in building your career relationships. It’s not that all such relationships have to be calculated for their potential near-term payback. However, it’s a fact that you can’t be all things to all people all the time. That’s humanly impossible. So what are your options?

For one, you can dabble in career relationship-building, splitting yourself into as many “pieces” as possible to touch each relationship frequently but briefly. Alternatively, you can focus on fewer relationships but make sure to give each one careful attention more often and for more meaningful periods of time. I’m a proponent of the latter approach. You might still want to check in more rarely with some of those other relationships, as long as you recognize that they won’t flourish the way the more carefully tended relationships will.

Why Do Relationships Matter?

I believe they matter because we’re stronger and possibly better individuals when we put genuine effort into connecting and staying connected with others–not just by clicking a button on LinkedIn or Facebook, but by investing something of ourselves in the relationship. We might not be completely selfless (saintly), but we don’t have to be self-serving either.

I have clients, for instance, that I first did work for 10, 15 or even 20 years ago, back in the early days of my business. They come back for updates–sometimes several years later–and refer friends, relatives and colleagues to me. They don’t do that just because I’m a good resume writer or career coach, although that’s probably part of it. Mostly I believe they do it because we have established a connection–a relationship–that they value and that they’re happy to share with others.

As Gordon says in his post, “In the end we won’t be measured by our bank account, sales numbers or wins and losses but by the difference we made in people’s lives… and we make a difference through relationships.”

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