After Graduation, Relationships Are More Important Than Ever

February 20, 2014

Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Welcome To The Workforce series, which focuses on sharing advice, experience, and guidance for upcoming and recent graduates entering the workforce. 

When I was growing up, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the concept of “building relationships.” In high school, my friends were my classmates and teammates, and in college, it seemed like I met people everywhere I went.

While attending college, I never really had to think about building and maintaining relationships. They simply came about as a result of living on a college campus surrounded by 30,000 students. However, the working world is not a college campus. The ingredients that lead to lifelong friends at college do not normally exist in a workplace, and I think it’s almost ironic that at a time in your life when relationships have never been more important, they’ve never been harder to build.

From what I’ve seen, building relationships early on is the key to kicking off a successful career. Here are a couple of ideas that frame the way I think about building and maintaining relationships in both my professional and personal life, developed from what I’ve learned during my transition into the real world.

linkedin employees on scooters

Relationships are founded in generosity

A variety of studies have shown there is a lot to gain from investing your time in others, whether it be volunteering, donating money or simply helping out a friend (the Generosity Experiment is a good one to watch). It may seem like building meaningful relationships with those who surround you is a simple concept, but I have found that when I’m not being mindful of it, it’s actually very difficult to do.

When I interact with friends, colleagues and strangers, I try to remember that an investment of time now can reap all kinds of rewards later on. Like most things, being thoughtful is where change starts, but only time, dedication and a whole lot of reading (at least for me! Check out The Go Giver, The Generosity Network and Never Eat Alone for a good start) can ensure that I consistently turn my good intentions into actions.

Adopting this mindset, I don’t just meet people with the intention of getting something out of them. I try my best to listen to others, pay attention to what is going on in their lives and look for opportunities to solve a problem for them. Even if it’s something as small as surprising a co-worker with coffee when I notice they’re particularly tired, I’ve learned that it is the unexpected moments of generosity that make the biggest impact.

Relationships are hard work

Maintaining relationships in the working world is hard work, and creating new ones from scratch is even tougher. The abundance of free time, and people to share it with, that made making friends easy in college is now hard to come by. After graduation, new friends didn’t just show up on my doorstep, and I had to expend a lot of time and energy as I went about building my network of colleagues at work and circle of friends at home.

For those of you still in college, this blog post is a great resource as you start thinking about opportunities after graduation. For my fellow professionals, I’m sure you have at one point or another shared with me in the thought that everything was more fun in college. From my new perspective, I would argue that it was simply easier. College was a great time in my life, but now that I’m actually thinking about and investing in my relationships, I’ve never felt more fulfilled.