Relationships are the Core of Professional Success
In every career and every company, relationships are at the core of success. When senior leadership makes decisions about moving employees up in the ranks, they almost always tap those they know–the employees who have done a good job of building rapport with their superiors. Building rapport and relationship capital starts with the job interview and continues as you advance up the corporate ladder.
The interview is your first opportunity to build rapport. It’s critical that you begin to establish yourself as someone who offers a viable solution by framing your skills and expertise in a way that resonates with the company’s needs and the requirements of the position. Preparation is critical, doing your homework to learn as much as you can about the company and the specific department or group you’re interviewing will give you the ammunition to ask the right questions and come across as a “GREAT FIT.” Managers want to see if you are an asset to current challenges they face. Your goal is to gather enough information to be confident and fluent with your answers to questions.
Likeability is also a big part of your marketability, so stand tall, exude confidence, smile, make eye contact. Your posture produces confidence so walk, talk and look the part you want to play in the company. Hopefully, you have a power pose that you use to help keep your stress levels low.
Develop an elevator pitch filled with brag-bites, a one-to-two minute version of your professional story that highlights those elements of your education and experience, that you feel most proud of. Each time you interview or meet someone new in the company, that pitch will be your introduction. Your pitch will certainly evolve as your career continues to develop. Although we call it a pitch, think of it more like a story that is narrated in a casual and natural manner.
As you advance in your career you’ll need to invest in relationships with resources at various levels by:
Build relationship currency.
Spend time with people in the organization, sharing ideas and working with them on projects or internal task forces. This includes getting to know others beyond the professional setting. We aren’t talking about spending every weekend with your colleagues, but you should take the time to learn about the things that matter to them outside of work: whether it’s their family, pet or hobbies. Your ultimate goal is to connect strategically to motivate people to act on your behalf, reciprocate on assisting each other with actions, and increase their willingness to help you recover from mistakes.
Ask. Listen. Build.
Start relationships and interviews by asking smart questions, and then intently listen – getting them to do some of the talking. People like to talk about themselves. Your responses should build and expand on what you learned. This doesn’t mean you need to agree, but at least you are first taking into consideration what the other person has to say. You are building rapport.
Don’t go into an interview or discussion with a new contact offering unsolicited and sweeping recommendations. You will stand out more just by asking really smart questions. Asking inquisitive questions and offering to help will get you more kudos than just solving the problem. Keep in mind that leaders at the most senior levels in an organization don’t make recommendations to solve a problem or resolve an issue until they have asked lots of questions about it first.
Be a high achiever with the confidence to speak up.
Your ability to grow within an organization rests to a large extent on your performance, but everyone is expected to perform. To make recommendations, help formulate solutions or just make assertions, you need to have a track record behind you of successful projects and concrete benefits you have brought to the company. That means people have to know your work. Getting credit for your work is more important than just doing your work. This requires you to get invited to the right meetings and having the confidence to speak up.
Build areas of expertise.
You’ll maximize your influence in the organization by being known as an expert and authority in a particular area. Find a niche that interests you and where you can excel and continually build your skills and knowledge there. You need to decide what works best in your companies culture. Sure some organizations value generalist, people that can take on various task. If you do focus on becoming a subject expert, you need to be a continuous learner, so you stay ahead of the knowledge trends.
Without this, you could wind up looking more arrogant than capable, so always applaud the efforts and work of others. It may seem counter-intuitive, especially if those coworkers are also vying for the same positions. But the more support you show for others, the more willing they will be to support your advancement. Likewise when you receive a compliment for your work, don’t brush that off—accept it graciously and make it clear you were happy to support the team. The one trick is to not give out all the details. You can ensure you get credit when they need to bring you along to ensure they can address any and all questions.