From an early age we are taught not to talk to strangers. For that reason, by the time we’re adults many of us tend to avoid engaging strangers in conversation, even for just five minutes. This mindset likely infiltrates a number of components of our daily lives. We may first reach out to a babysitter we have known for years before we try out a new babysitter, even if the prospective new hire comes highly recommended. We may drive a bit out of our way to a gift store where we know the salesperson, even if we know there is another similar store in town. The fact is, it’s human nature to gravitate to people we know and to help those who help us. This is precisely what happens in the workplace.
You work alongside your colleagues eight hours a day, five days a week. Why would you want to lock yourself into this together-time with a complete stranger? Knowing how important our income is, if given the choice, why would anyone willingly give a complete stranger any opportunity to negatively impact their livelihood? The answer is simple: You wouldn’t.
When I was a young girl, and first started seeing my doctor for my annual physical, I always marveled at how comfortable she made me feel, almost always remembering some personal fact about me. “How’s your new baby sister?” she asked when I was thirteen and my third sister was born. “Are you still working at the toy store?” she asked when I reached high school. “Did you take any more overnight road trips?” she asked one year, when even I barely recalled the trip she was talking about. Not only was my doctor incredibly personable, but by bringing up these seemingly minor details at the beginning of my visits, she immediately put me at ease. I felt like we were truly connected and that she really cared about me.
Let’s fast forward to the time I saw her when I was twenty-two years old. After taking my vitals, the nurse accidentally left my chart in the examining room. (Ordinarily she’d leave it in the drop box located right outside the door). Being curious, I took a look at my chart. To my surprise, there was a bright sheet of paper listing many of the details my doctor had spoken of in the years before (new sister born, new job at a toy store, overnight road trip, college applications, wants to go to law school, etc.).
At first, I thought I’d been bamboozled—I thought my doctor had a really great memory and that she genuinely cared about me. Then I realized that those notes were just her way of establishing a connection with me. Not only that, it wasn’t long before I started emulating this practice myself.
The point is, people want to build relationships with one another. That’s human nature. The best way to connect with people is by showing interest in someone else’s life, no matter how tenuous that connection may seem.
This is precisely why networking is so important. Since we are told never to talk to strangers, it makes perfect sense that we resist bringing strangers into our workplaces. People want to work with people with whom they have a bond and know something about. This is why from the moment you first apply for a job, anything you can do to forge a connection with the other person will provide you with a significant advantage.
And, here’s the good news: When it comes to our relationships with our coworkers—or anyone else we meet on a regular basis—the difference between being labeled a stranger and a non-stranger is so minimal, even a small connection can bridge this gap.
Hopefully you’ve heard this message because it is an important one and, speaking of hearing, I’m excited to announce that The Perpetual Paycheck is now available as an audiobook on Amazon, iTunes, and Audible. Thank you for embracing The Perpetual Paycheck in all of its formats.
Happy holidays, and best of luck with your job search. I know you can do it!