3 Effective Ways to Build Connections at Work, According to a Top Tech Exec

Author Aliza Knox built and led APAC businesses for three of the world’s top technology firms— Google, Twitter and Cloudflare. She was named 2020 IT Woman of The Year (APAC) and is the author of book Don’t Quit Your Day Job: The 6 mindshifts you need to Rise and Thrive at work.

After working for decades as an executive in some of the most dynamic and innovative tech companies on the planet (Google, Twitter and Cloudflare), I’ve found that being able to make connections at work and within your industry can often be more important than how skilled and efficient you are at your role.

Connecting emotionally with co-workers, employees, bosses, and colleagues is key to getting work done, enjoying yourself while doing it and moving forward in your career. Success depends not just on hard work, but also on our ability to build and maintain genuine relationships throughout our careers.

As with financial capital, however, building and maintaining social capital takes time and attention. It does not involve using people to get ahead or viewing work relationships in a transactional way. You can accrue social capital in a way that is true to your personality and values.

For leaders, helping employees connect can benefit the bottom line. Supporting relationships is part of creating a motivated, energetic team — people who want to log on or come in each morning and get going together. Bonded employees stay longer, keeping costs lower.

So, how can we develop new connections and strengthen existing? Ahead, three ways you can you build strong social capital for yourself and others.

Seek Mentors At Work

First, seek out an advocate, sponsor or mentor (whatever you like to call it) within your organisation. A sponsor is someone more senior who looks out for you and your career by mentioning you favourably in meetings, helping you land a new role within the organisation or giving you general career advice. This is a genuine relationship — not one with Machiavellian or ulterior motives. But it is a relationship that you intentionally develop. Having an advocate within your firm can mean the difference between getting an opportunity you want or watching it go to someone else.

Build a ‘Personal Board of Directors’

While supporters inside your organisation provide one type of social capital, you also need ideas and support from people outside your firm, ideally with varied backgrounds and at different stages in their careers. People with alternative perspectives and expertise can provide novel insights and new knowledge. As with a mentor or sponsor, these are relationships you must intentionally build. I think of it as assembling a ‘personal board of directors,’ half-dozen or so experts willing to offer you input and advice.

Connect With Colleagues When You Can

Just because you don’t have to meet in-person, doesn’t mean you never should. Face-to-face meetings are a way to promote collaboration — and foster friendships. When working on a group project, consider getting together in person, again, even if it’s not required. That extra effort to be in the same physical space may pay off by helping generate real relationships.

Social capital could also be called ‘trust in action’, and one surprisingly effective way to strengthen trust among colleagues is to give back to the community together. Many people today want to feel that their company is connected to a mission they support and is a good corporate citizen, contributing to the community.

Making genuine connections with colleagues at work is not only good for your career progression but also helps make work fun and enjoyable. Remember to pay your success forward, especially if you’ve been fortunate with the opportunities provided to you. You may even find that supporting others brings the greatest sense of satisfaction to your career.

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