By Crystal Zapata
Building and Maintaining Relationships
In a culture hard-headed on individuality, the importance of genuine relationships sometimes gets overlooked. Of course there is the popular saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” And to a certain extent, that is true. Though I would argue it both matters what AND who you know. As self-sustainable as we like to think we are, we need each other. On one level, we rely on products and services every day to help us function. On another level, we need each other to self-actualize, especially in a struggling and changing economy where competition is intensified. Don’t forget that large corporations, political parties, religious groups, etc. are nothing more than a group of individuals that have found each other in one way or another and are now engaged in a common effort.
Folks that are deemed “successful” are not only intelligent and driven, but also understand the value of professional relationships and strive to maintain those. For some of the lucky ones, these professional relationships are established by friends and family, and the only thing needed is maintenance. For the rest of us, we have to go looking for people who have similar drives, interests, and goals as we do. That said, I suggest you pack some binoculars in your upward mobility tool kit!
In my previous blog, I described knowing your goal and getting there as a road trip. Well, I suggest that you also find people to join you on your journey because they can help you and you can help them. If you don’t know anyone, find them.
The very reason I have the opportunity to write this blog is because I recognized the value in my relationship with my professor. With similar interests and goals, I figured that maybe one day we would have the opportunity to work together. And VOILA! You’re reading my blog! Furthermore, I was bar-tending my way through school and finally got determined to get out of it. I started networking with some of the regulars and the next thing I knew, I had a full-time job that provided a way out of bar-tending. Don’t take people for granted. Look around at those you come in contact with every day and value those relationships.
Of course there are online social networks – 74 in fact – that are always helpful. If you can find and meet people with similar interests, then go for it! Don’t limit your world. However, I would argue that real face-to-face relationships have unique and intrinsic value that often gets overlaid by these sites.
Stick to people! I don’t mean pester them, but keep in touch. Meet up every couple months, throw out an email, and offer some news of interest or a helping hand. Make yourself known and remembered. My personal word of caution is not to look at these relationships as exploitative, as in “What can this person do for me!?” Rather, consider, “How can we possibly work together to make something happen?” Hopefully you will eventually find yourself with a talented team of people who are each climbing the economic and social latter and improving their, and hopefully others’, quality of life. There is strength in numbers, so find some quality people you could see yourself working with, and stay in touch.