For many, professional relationships hit a wall during the pandemic. Face-to-face interactions at conferences, networking events, and in-person meetings came to a halt. We faced increased stress and drastically shifting responsibilities. As we slowly emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the future of professional relationships may feel uncertain.
However, building and maintaining professional relationships remains crucial for excelling in your career. Research shows that the ability to empathize, connect, and influence others is a required skill for success.
Your professional relationships – colleagues, clients, vendors, mentors – are so incredibly important. Looking ahead to 2022, the post-pandemic world will offer a newfound appreciation for professional relationships. These connections will often lead to new opportunities and new perspectives. If you are ready to hit refresh on your people skills, below are three strategies for connecting, developing, and maintaining productive and long-term professional relationships.
When the pandemic forced closures and enforced social distancing, in-person events and meetings were replaced by virtual events and Zoom calls. However, as we look to the future, the buzzword is “hybrid.” Companies moving toward hybrid work schedules, balancing remote work with days in the office. Conferences and events will be offered as in-person and virtual options.
Putting Zoom fatigue aside, this hybrid approach offers more chances to connect with our industry contacts. Sometimes, flexibility is just necessary. Being able to schedule something virtual allows us to fit meetings into each other’s busy schedules without the worry of trying to make it here or there on time. As one client pointed out recently, virtual allows us to be resourceful with technology at our fingertips. It also allows for meeting with other professionals who may be located beyond a reasonable driving state or across the country. You could network pretty much anywhere, anytime.
Plus, when we finally get the chance to meet a contact in person, we can be more appreciative of time. We can enjoy the different experiences that face-to-face interactions offer.
Fundamentally, relationships are based on how we are relevant to one another. It is recommended that professionals develop the confidence and skill to establish a clear basis and intent for their relationships. One way to think about this is to identify the five relationships that have the most influence on your success. For each relationship, ask yourself three questions:
- Have you and your colleague discussed and agreed on a clear purpose for your relationship?
- What type of relationship (transactional, interdependent, or transformational) is most appropriate?
- How does commitment or the lack of commitment show up in the relationship?
Your honest answers will help improve the purpose of the relationship from both sides, furthering an understanding for one another.
One of the best ways to connect with others is to be human. Being vulnerable means being able to ask for help, being receptive to feedback, and being open to the opinions of others (even if you wholeheartedly disagree). If we allow it to be, this can be an innate skill. If we model vulnerability as a strength, and we also allow others to do the same. We create a relationship that is honest and collaborative.
Looking for more ways to improve yourself and professional relationships?
The Sweeney team recently tested out the Working Genius assessment. Every member of our team has taken the Working Genius assessment, and we charted our results to see how represented we are in each genius category collectively as an agency, but also in our departments and in each of our client teams. And for those of us who work together every day, it has helped us put together the puzzle of our team in a little different way.
However you develop your professional relationships, we wish you success and hope to connect soon – virtually, or otherwise. Cheers!