by Kelly Bush ~
In 1967 The Beatles sang about friends who tell you when you sing out of tune, stick by you even when you’re off-key and who will continue to listen to your song despite the dubious quality of your performance. It’s a cheery, happy ditty with a contagious tune but it’s also sage advice. We thrive with a little help from our friends — not just in life — but also in our work.
I know some would say it’s not the best idea to mix business and friends. And I can appreciate that there are risks. I’ve been burned with this myself. Once, when I introduced a social acquaintance to a professional contact, she made a fool of herself, and I was embarrassed to learn about it later. But that isn’t really what I’m talking about when I think of integrating friends into one’s career. Our friends can be one of our best professional resources simply by being in our lives and by being themselves.
Over the decade+ since I earned my undergraduate degree, I have watched my friends grow into incredibly talented professionals. Some of us went back to graduate school. Some are now Managers or Directors, some are now Creatives, some are Career-Changers … and all of them are people that if I step back and consider from a professional standpoint, are amazingly talented. If these weren’t my friends and I met them now as clients or colleagues, I would be wowed. And since they ARE my friends, I have the opportunity to study the successes of these incredible people from an excellent vantage point.
That’s right. I’m saying that I look at what my friends are doing and let it influence me. Sounds crazy, right? I know. BUT hear me out.
Moving from my twenties to my thirties, I came to know myself better. Which has meant that the friendships that lasted, or the new ones I formed, were more and more in line with my values. These are friendships that run DEEP. These are people whom I admire and trust. “Friends” almost seems an inadequate label for some of these special people. They are integral to my success and comprise a major portion of my happiness.
Given that I value and admire these good friends, I cannot help but notice and celebrate their successes. When a girlfriend of mine recently advocated for herself in an annual review and subsequently received a fantastic promotion and raise that she absolutely deserved, I was ECSTATIC. I was also seriously impressed. She knows her worth and insists it be acknowledged.
Another friend left a stable role at a major corporation to take a chance on a small organization run by people he respects. He subsequently found himself with new professional freedoms and opportunities that have reinvigorated his career. And you better believe, I took note!
A third friend took a title and pay cut to join an organization that offered stability and the benefits her family needed. Watching her find satisfaction in a different way reminded me powerfully that needs can change and that flexibility is a critical component of career success.
And it isn’t just from the successes that I learn. Seeing friends’ professional struggles from up close can be enlightening too. Listening to a dear friend talk about the impact it had on her to be in a job where she was not given the tools she needed to succeed made me think about how important it was for me to address this in my own job.
Listening to another girlfriend express frustration that her employer would give her a pay increase only when she got an offer somewhere else – subsequently making it clear to her that they knew what she was worth and hadn’t been honoring that – was eye-opening.
Sometimes in hearing friends talk about a challenge they are facing, I realize that the same challenge has previously or is currently presenting itself to me. Or through their search for a solution, friends come up with options I had not considered. And it all happens because two friends were chatting about life.
Looking then, for inspiration for our careers, to those people in our lives whom we respect and admire as friends makes perfect sense. My close friends are people whom I trust, value and enjoy. My own career benefits from their role in my life. Because I get by with a little help from my friends. I thrive with a little help from my friends.