Being friends with the right people at work can open doors. So who’s the one person at work you should go out of your way to meet?
High-performing professionals know their careers will be defined by the relationships they build.
You go to lunches, have a drink at happy hour and meet for coffee. Maybe you’ve even tried an online networking event. These are all great ways to build your professional network. But you may be overlooking one important and powerful person.
It’s surprising that even savvy networkers know so many networking tips, but seem to ignore one of the most valuable relationships in your office.
By focusing all of your time and energy networking with your peers and close superiors, you definitely set yourself up for success. But everyone knows this already. It doesn’t give you an advantage over Jane in the next cubicle.
If you want an advantage in your career, you need to start building relationships with amazing people others have overlooked. (Click here to tweet this quote.) Here’s how to do it.
Find out who really runs your office
Imagine a person who knew everyone in the office inside and out. They work directly with the CEO, and all her top management. This person knows high-level info about the personal lives and professional goals of all the company’s top executives. They know all the moving pieces of the organization.
And every time you get stuck on a big project, they can introduce you to someone who can help. Guess what. This person actually exists in nearly every office across the United States.
You’d be crazy not to start building a relationship with them!
These employees used to be called secretaries. Now their roles have expanded and they usually have the title of Executive Assistant or Administrative Assistant.
As a junior analyst, I never realized the best executive assistants in my office probably made double my salary or more. That’s how much their bosses (and the company) value their contributions and skills.
Looking back, I’m amazed by how many people throughout my career have written off these important individuals as “just admin staff” without getting to know them or their contributions to the organization.
Still not convinced? Admins in your office can be a wealth of information when it comes to office gossip, layoffs or employee changes. They work with top management, so they have a direct line to everyone’s superiors. And they understand the business’s inner workings thanks to the countless number of people they speak with all day long.
They can share this info with you and help you out when you need answers to a question or a solution to a problem. But only if you’ve taken the time to build a mutually beneficial relationship with them first.
Build relationships with your office gatekeepers
Executive assistants often feel underappreciated because people think of them as “just an admin.” As if that gives someone a right to ignore them until they need a coffee.
Take a page out of Ben Franklin’s playbook, and ask for small favors from your office admin. Franklin is famous for turning an enemy into a lifelong friend by simply asking to borrow a book.
He understood people like people for whom they have done favors. We all rationalize that we must actually like someone, otherwise we wouldn’t have been nice to them. Franklin used this technique to build lifelong relationships. And you can, too.
Here are just a few small favors you can ask to break the ice so you can start building relationships with your office gatekeepers:
- Get a tip on where to take the team for lunch
- Ask who to contact in HR about your new benefit plan
- Say your printer is broken and ask if they wouldn’t mind printing your file
It doesn’t matter what you ask. Just keep it simple, remember to stay polite and express your gratitude after they help you.
Of course there is always a danger in painting a large group of people with the same broad brush. Within every group, you’ll find just as many great people as people who are more difficult to work with. I encourage you to seek out great admins in your workplace or give another chance to someone you’ve already written off.
After all, your career is defined by the relationships you build.
Get more Career & Job Search Advice from Bob Berchtold at his blog, Cubicle Sherpa. And don’t forget to check out The Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Job Seekers, @CubicleSherpa, and LinkedIn.