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7 Unexpected People You Should Befriend at Work


Savvy employees know that getting in good with the right people is an excellent way to boost their careers. Whether you want to leave a lasting impression at your summer internship or plan on starting your first full time job this summer, here is who you definitely need to maintain a relationship with, and why.

1. Information Technology

Think about it—what percentage of your work is done on the computer or your company cell phone? If the answer is high, befriending the IT department is the single best thing you can do! After all, when your printer stops working, your phone breaks or your computer has a virus, you’ll need their help ASAP.

As a brand of engineering, Information Technology specializes specifically in using computer technology and telecommunications technology to transmit, translate and store various types of information. IT personnel can get you out of a bind when your computer won't turn on right before a big report is due or even when you can't figure out how to filter work emails.

Of course, before going to IT, try to figure out the issue on your own to make sure that you're not wasting anybody's time. And if you do need to call the department, stay calm and amiable and realize you may have to wait. And if you sense some annoyance in their response to your request, try to understand their side of the story! Think about how you feel when your mom or dad asks you (for the fifth time) how to upload pictures to the computer or how to “do the email.” IT personnel get a lot of the same questions day in and day out from people who are busy and impatient—you'd be annoyed too! To avoid coming across as needy and unappreciative, be extra courteous, laugh at your lack of computer knowledge and try to learn from your mistake so you don’t have to ask the same questions again later on.

If your workplace doesn't have an IT department, it's just as helpful to befriend a colleague who is particularly adroit with technology. No matter what, someone will be willing to help you with all of your computer and communication technology woes, we promise!

2. Administrative Assistant

Imagine a person who knows everyone in the office, inside and out. They work directly with the CEO and all of her top management. This person knows high-level info about the professional goals of all the company's top executives and is attuned to important workplace networking. They know about all of the moving pieces of the organization, and every time you get stuck on a big project, they can introduce you to someone who can help. Guess what? This person actually exists in nearly every office and you’d be crazy not to start building a relationship with them! These employees used to be called secretaries, but their roles have since been expanded and they now typically hold the title of executive assistant or administrative assistant. Still not convinced you need them? Admins in your office can be a wealth of information when it comes to company culture, and they see interviewees like you day in and day out, meaning they know exactly what the boss likes and dislikes.  

Kate Brooks, Executive Director for Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University, says that "it is likely that bosses will ask the administrative assistant if an interviewee was nice to him/her, because if not they don't want to employ someone who does not contribute to a positive workplace atmosphere."

Even after you get the job, you should take the time to get to know the administrative assistants. They don't have the luxury of getting up from their desk as often as you do, so a good way to connect is to always ask the administrative assistant if he/she needs anything when you run out for lunch as a show of thanks for their hard work. They probably deal with more difficult people than you could imagine, so nice gestures go a long way. Plus, when you need something important mailed overnight, for example, and the office is about to close, they'll be more inclined to stay late and help you out if you treat them well!

3. Human Resources

It never hurts to be nice, especially when it comes to the person (or people) who know the ins-and-outs of a company. Human Resources is a major part of everyone's work life. Whether you are looking for a job, already employed, moving up the ranks or moving on, you will encounter and need the assistance of the HR department. For many job seekers, the HR professional or recruitment officer is the gateway to getting an in into a company. In a way, HR holds the power of getting you through the door as they are the ones who filter resumes, set interviews and process hiring. They are also the ones who will orient you and help you get settled in as soon as you get hired. Once employed, the HR department also oversees many other functions, such as monitoring your attendance to process your pay slip. They also do the paperwork and documentation needed by the company and organize employee events and teambuilding activities. 

HR also plans, seeks approval for and organizes training development programs. They propose and manage benefits, monitor performances so that deserving employees get promoted and make sure that policies are followed so that the workplace can run smoothly. Finally, HR has the task of disciplining and apprehending violators of company policies, which means that befriending members of the HR department can help you become more knowledgeable about company policies and workplace expectations.

So, since HR people can greatly assist in getting you hired, getting you acquainted with the company, developing your skills, managing your compensation and benefits and overseeing your career growth, you should be showing them a whole lot of appreciation and love! Chatting in the elevator, asking how they're doing as you pass them in the hall, or even a simple thank you every once and a while can really go a long way. Befriend your HR rep; it's not just wise—it's the right thing to do! 

4. Your Boss

This one’s kind of a no-brainer! Your first internship or job most likely isn’t your dream job, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to foster the best possible relationship with your boss and aim to gain a great mentor in the process! Brooks suggests that the first step in befriending your boss is becoming familiar with company policies regarding personal relationships with superiors, and if such a policy doesn't exist, to ask your aforementioned HR friends for advice!

For quick advice on conversation topics, Brooks says that it's best to keep discussion that's not work-related centered on your boss' hobbies, interests and family. "Keep it professional though," cautions Brooks. "This isn't an intimate, best-friends relationship."

While being on good terms with your boss is essential, there are pitfalls you need to avoid when trying to befriend your boss. First, it's important to keep your friendship from becoming an emotional crutch or negative space. Often times, it's easy to complain or vent to someone you're befriending, but you want to tread lightly here because it's important that your boss regards you as a strong employee with a positive attitude. Second, avoid gossiping to your boss or encouraging your boss to pass the latest gossip along to you. Such behavior will almost always end badly, whether your boss accidentally repeats the gossip you have shared or begins to develop the impression that you like being involved in petty gossip. Third, understand where the line should not be crossed as a professional. For example, it would be inappropriate to tell your coworkers, including your boss, that you won't be on your A-game today thanks to a massive hangover. And lastly, always be very aware of the impression you're creating by becoming friends with your boss. A relationship that is exclusive and involves sharing inside jokes is unprofessional behavior and will create a negative team dynamic with the rest of your coworkers. The key to having a successful and appropriate friendship with your boss is to understand how far to take that friendship, which means always remembering that your role as an employee always comes first.

5. The Newbie

While it’s nice to be on the receiving end of coworker-friendship benefits, it’s just as nice to go out of your way to help someone less experienced. Spot a newbie who isn’t sure which printer to use? See someone wandering the halls, aimlessly looking for office #703? By taking a less-experienced coworker under your wing, you’ll boost your leadership abilities and have the chance to become a kick-ass mentor. You’ll also ensure that all members of your work community are productively contributing to the workplace, which helps everyone! Besides, he or she might just turn out to be one of the above five must-have colleagues! You never know who your next boss will be, so it always pays to network proactively. 

6. Your Competitors 

While it may seem inadvisable to get too chummy with your competitors, they can be a boon to business, says Brooks. She suggests at the very least to touch base with competitors to stay on top of industry trends. That way, you can gauge how your performance compares to others. Brooks also says knowing your competitors can help you better articulate your own business propositions. Though she advocates forming as many industry connections as possible, Brooks offers this advice: "Though competitors can yield valuable information, take care not to let that information have too much influence on your own plans."

Brooke Metz, a Media Relations Intern at the Coca-Cola Company, agrees that keeping in touch with competitors and connecting with them via social media is an important part of the job. "I'm often encouraged to become aware of who our competitors are. It's not just about outshining them but creating and maintaining positive relationships," she says. Brooks advises employees to be aware of company policies regarding interacting with competitors and to always keep contact with them professional and light. "Do not seek friendships with the competition without an okay," Brooks warns, "but if your boss gives you the go-ahead and monitors your interactions then you have a fantastic opportunity to cultivate an important relationship and trusting rapport." Overall, being aware of and friendly with the competition can open new doors and provide invaluable insight into the industry you're interested in. 

7. Industry Contacts Outside of the Company

No matter what industry you're in, you'll likely be in touch with industry experts outside of your company. For example, if you work in media or publishing, it's likely you'll be in touch with publicists throughout the day. Metz says that at the beginning of her internship with Coca-Cola she had to pitch ideas to publicists, a daunting task for an intern. As her internship progressed, Metz noted that "when you delve into their story [publicists], ask the details about their angle, and develop a relationship, you can not have a go-to publicist but better content like newsletters or press releases because that publicist is more knowledgeable and attuned to the culture of Coca-Cola." Metz reiterates the importance of good publicity and marketing, saying that befriending a publicist (she suggests asking them about their personal interests to break the ice) makes the process a lot easier and more straightforward. Also, a publicist that you've created a good relationship with, she says, is beneficial for when you need to get news out at the last minute. "They [publicists] have all the connections and have made it their career to get information out quickly, concisely, and to the right people," she adds.

While we, as motivated collegiettes, should always strive to further our careers, we should also focus on cultivating relationships to create a better, inclusive work environment. When looking to boost your success, always remember the people who helped get you there!

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