Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda
I wish someone would have drilled into my head at an early age the importance of building – and maintaining – relationships. The more miles I have under my hood, the more I realize just how important relationships are on the road called life. Personal and professional sustained relationships can shape your route. On the flip side, failing to build and keep relationships can hinder your path.
These days, I’m certainly better-than-average at relationship building and keeping. Probably a “B” and maybe even an “A” some days. Yet overall, I rate myself a “C” as far as creating and sustaining lifelong relationships. I am better than some, but not as diligent as others I consider superstars. When done right, mutually beneficial, sustained relationships bring tremendous benefits, professionally and personally.
Thinking back to my years in college, and especially my grad school time in New York, I had many opportunities to forge lifelong professional relationships that would have paid dividends in my career. Maybe I didn’t understand the importance, or perhaps I was living existentially, thinking about today, not tomorrow. Whatever the reason, many relationships never took root. And, certainly, they weren’t watered enough.
I did a little better on the personal side. I still have a few close friends from high school and college, but too many other relationships were not maintained. At a recent high school reunion, I chatted with people who I would have truly enjoyed knowing as they (and I) turned into adults. I have met fascinating people while traveling in other countries but was rarely diligent about sustaining those ties. I regret that now, I was just too busy to bother. When I’ve attended my grad school reunions in NY, I have marveled at the close ties maintained by my classmates in the journalism world. I enjoy seeing these colleagues from decades ago on the rare occasion I travel east for the reunions, but I recognize I let many of those ties slip, too.
Everyone is aware that mentors are valuable for young professionals. I lacked a formal mentor, but one or two people kindly helped steer me in the right direction. Yet I don’t recall that they emphasized the importance of making, and sustaining, relationships with valuable people along the way. Or maybe they did – and, in my youth, I just wasn’t listening.
While it may seem these are random, and even obvious, musings, they are not. If you are a mentor, whether formal or informal, don’t forget to reinforce the value of building relationships – and nurturing them, way beyond the initial encounter. Your mentee is likely to be thinking about today, not tomorrow. And that would be a mistake. And for younger professionals who may stumble upon these words, DO build and nurture relationships with people who matter. They may be people valuable to you professionally or personally — and often the two intersect. Whether these valued contacts are from schools and colleges you’ve attended, early jobs or your current position – stay in touch with them. Find ways to help them when you can.
When you travel down the highway of life, don’t forget that your rearview mirror can help pave the road ahead.