General Education

If You Want to Get Ahead At Work, You Need to Build Friendships

If You Want to Get Ahead At Work, You Need to Build Friendships
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Jade Jenkins June 17, 2014

Relationship building is an important, and often overlooked, necessity for entry-level professionals.

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You read tips about standing out from other job applicants. You sharpened your resume, prepared for the interview, nailed it, and now you have a great springboard to your career. That’s really great!

Your next step? Learn how to build and strengthen your work relationships.

Professional relationship-building is a skill all successful job candidates possess. Having the right contacts in your network can increase your exposure and may enable you to be privy to employment opportunities before they’re even advertized. The task may seem daunting, but with these five strategies you, too, can build an impressive network during your internship.

# 1. Recognize everyone’s value

Throughout your internship, you will have frequent interactions with managers, company employees and other interns. Managers are the gatekeepers between you and future opportunities (you’ll need a reference, after all!), and can give you insight on your performance and the characteristics of successful employees. Employees understand the industry and can offer advice on entering the field. Other interns can offer support throughout the internship process. Each group can also give you access to members of their professional network and inform you of future internship and employment leads.

# 2. Observe and be seen

From day one of your internship, make sure you are introduced to as many people as you can handle. Volunteer for cross-departmental projects to broaden your exposure (and increase the diversity of your network). Take time to look and listen to your surroundings as well. Do employees socialize with each other occasionally throughout the day, or do they wait until lunch? Are their interactions formal or informal? Are interruptions welcome or do people request meetings instead?

# 3. Break the ice

Taking the first step towards professional relationship-building can be intimidating. However, even anxious interns can easily do this by taking one simple approach: Asking others for information and advice. Let your co-workers know that you’d love to get their insight on your internship performance and their professional experiences. Give them an opportunity to feel like they’ve mentored you by keeping the focus of early discussions on them — they should feel flattered and willing to help. Continue these conversations as regularly as you can.

Remember: it’s not who you know that counts, it’s who knows (remembers) you!

# 4. Play the game

It is true that your internship may not always be enjoyable, and complaining about work may be an activity that co-workers sometimes bond over. However, doing so is what’s expected of an average- to low-performing worker.

Your challenge is to overcome that perception so that your co-workers juxtapose your great work ethic against other interns. Don’t (never, ever) complain to anyone about work — especially on social media sites or via email. Distance yourself from conversations with other interns and employees who do complain about work. If you ever have a problem, know that it is best to discuss it with your internship supervisor.

# 5. Return the favor

Recognizing that your performance impacts others is one of the best ways to convey your appreciation for your co-workers’ feedback and mentorship. Having a positive attitude and doing a great job (especially on boring tasks) may also lead to special internship assignments with increased responsibilities and visibility.

Of course, co-workers and supervisors appreciate the occasional expression of gratitude. According to Maria Woodruff of Business Insider, a carefully selected card can go a long way. “Don’t just buy some $1 card from a drugstore,” Maria says. “Get something beautiful that they’ll want to keep on their desk in plain sight. Every time they look at it, they’ll remember that thoughtful intern they liked so much — and that’s half the battle won already.”


Giang, V., Miller, R., & Guey, L. (2013, June). 18 things we wish we’d known as interns. Business Insider. Retrieved May 29th, 2014, from Business Insider.

Green, A. (2011, January). 10 tips for getting the most out of your internship. U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved May 29th, 2014, from U.S. News & World Report.

Hansen, R. S. (n.d.). Making the most of your internship(s). Quint Careers. Retrieved June 5, 2014, from Quint Careers.

Harris, P. (2013, August). Network your way into the hidden job market (before you really need to). Workopolis. Retrieved June 5th, 2014, from Workopolis.

Misner, I. (2013, January). Hate small talk? How to break the ice when networking for business. Entrepreneur. Retrieved June 5th, 2014, from Entrepeneur.

Smith, J. (2013, May). Turn your internship into a full-time job. Forbes. Retrieved June 5th, 2014, from Forbes.


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