If you are a professional woman with more than five years of work experience under your belt, you have probably figured out by now that you are not superwoman.
It is nearly impossible to go to work, have a social life, balance your fitness goals, keep your house clean, cook, eat, sleep, travel, date and nurture, keep in good mental health in check, squeeze in some me time and have hobby or two without tapping out—trust me I’ve tried.
You need apps (shout out to Seamless and Handy), timeouts, and most importantly you need a support system.
The same way you find time in your schedule for your friends—the ones you go on vacay with, babysit their kids, brunch with on the weekends, etc—you also should consider maintaining a support system exclusively within your professional circle.
Your professional friends are the ones you go to networking events with, the ones who introduce you to the person you’ve been trying to connect with for coffee and the ones who recommend you for new jobs. Beyond that, these are the folks who can help keep you on track career-wise.
No matter how large or small your circle, here are my top five types of people you should have in your professional friend circle:
The Voice of Reason Friend: The lawyer
This is the friend you go to when you have an important decision to make or to bounce ideas off of when you need a fresh ear. Think about this friend less in the “Law & Order” sense and more like an adviser or consigliere. These friends aren’t only available to be a fixer if you get into a legal jam, they can also try to help you see all sides of whatever issue you’re facing: the good, the bad, and the grey. If you do require actual legal advice or services, keep in mind that most lawyers only specialize in specific practice areas. So while your employment attorney friend probably won’t be super helpful to review your lease agreement (and don’t assume they have time or will want to do so anyway), it is more than likely they can recommend someone from their legal network who can help.
The Numbers Friend: The Accountant, Financial Adviser, CPA, or Tax Preparer
If you are anything like me, math is not your strong suit. I get the general concepts (in a non-common core type of way), but anything beyond simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division is lost on me. This is why the numbers friend is good to keep in your professional circle for all your numbers questions, like tax, salary, investment and anything else money related. Similar to your “voice of reason” friend, your numbers friend might not have all the answers, but at least may be able to point you in the right direction.
Also from 32 Letter:
Are Genuine Friendships Going Out of Style?
An Ode To The Friend In The Group Without
Hey, Nice People. Here are 3 New Words You Need to Learn ASAP
The Social Media Effect: 32 Letter’s Guide to Avoid #FOMO
The People’s Friend: A Human Resources Person (who doesn’t work at your current company)
If you work for a company no matter the size, the chances that you may have or will have an HR-related question is pretty high. Depending on your company, it’s culture, and the actual people in your HR department, you may or may not feel comfortable enough asking someone internally. This is where your external HR friend comes in handy. Especially in this #metoo era, this person just might be among your most trusted friend in the bunch.
I’m going to group the next two together: Mentor in your field and Colleague in your field
While the first three types of friends might not necessarily be in your field or industry, these last two should be. Your mentor and colleague friend represent your checks and balances. When you think about your career goals and trajectory, look up and look across. Are you hitting the right milestones for where you want to be? Where was your mentor at this point in their career? How far along is your colleague as compared to where you are (in terms of title, salary, responsibilities, etc.) Are you thinking about asking for a promotion or interviewing for a new job? Need to initiate a difficult conversation with a co-worker or boss? See if your mentor or colleague will let you practice on them. Ideally, for these two friends you should try to identify folks who aren’t competitive in nature—this isn’t about trying to take anybody’s spot or one-upping your friend. Like Bey said, these two relationships are truly about finding folks who will pray for you, see better things for you, and want better days for you, unselfishly…with no pride involved.
So, where do you find these friends?
At social events, holiday parties, or on your travels. Or consider that you might already know them from school or church or a previous job. Before you invite them into your circle be sure to vet them first. Your vetting process should be based on mutual trust, your comfort level with having vulnerable conversations and their capacity to listen, along with their knowledge, skills, and expertise. Do they know you well enough to provide you with adequate support? Do you feel comfortable enough with them to share intimate details about your career or financial situation? If not, keep looking. You want to be selective about this group of friends because your reputation may depend on it.