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.
Happy holidays, and best of luck with your job search. I know you can do it!