Your first day at work is a bit like your first day at school. But without the tears.
They’re both landmark events in your life that you remember forever. The memory of that huge grey door being slammed shut behind me as I walked into a classroom so many years ago is still burnt in my brain.
Similarly, the trek up the dark and dingy stairs to my first office is still fresh in my mind. It’s impossible to forget that first glimpse of the large open-plan newsroom filled with cigarette smoke and the steady pounding of keyboards.
They say the office is where the magic happens. The banter with colleagues. Inside jokes. The occasional long lunch. Coffee breaks. Water cooler gossip. The brief catchup in the lift. After-work drinks. Office parties. Office romances. Oh, and work, of course.
Ever since the coronavirus pandemic broke this year and people began working remotely, there’s only one question on everyone’s mind: Is the office dead?
Well, the office as we knew it isn’t coming back any time soon, but it might be too early to sing a requiem for it.
As the government slowly relaxes lockdown restrictions, offices are busy gearing up to reopen.
And thank goodness for that. Because the office is what gives work its meaning. To begin with, it provides structure to your day. It separates your work and home lives. Many of us moan about long commutes and traffic jams but we wouldn’t trade the joy of being in a physical workspace buzzing with people for anything.
Let’s face it, working from your dining table can get lonely.
Going to an office is fun. It’s also where you build and expand your networks, critical for professional success today.
Most people believe networking is just about exchanging business cards and going for parties. But it’s a lot more than that: it’s about building long-term professional connections.
And many of those connections are made in the office. Not on social media. Or in a virtual office. But in a real office. Over the years.
You pop into your boss’s office for a chat. You sit in on office meetings with other teams. Or you have one-on-one discussions with colleagues and clients.
As they say, your network is your net worth.
Networks are not built overnight. You have to cultivate them over time.
You have to give and take. Wharton professor and organizational psychologist Adam Grant identifies this give-and-take as the basis of social relationships in his bestselling book Give And Take.
Grant classifies people into three groups on the basis of how they cooperate in social relationships: givers, takers, and matchers.
Givers really care about the people they are involved with. They will offer to connect you to someone about a potential job without hoping for reward or recognition.
Takers, on the other hand, have only themselves in mind. The person who keeps reaching out to you for professional assistance but doesn’t return the favor is a taker.
Matchers believe in giving and taking in equal measure. They are efficient at building relationships.
People use all three styles of networking at different stages of their life. You are a giver when you’re a mentor, a taker if you’re negotiating your salary, and a matcher in your daily interaction with co-workers.
And the office is where you hone these skills.
The office of the future might not look anything like the office of the past because of social distancing regulations and the coronavirus pandemic, but it is far from dead.
It will still be one of your main avenues for professional networking, a key Harappa skill for professional success that you can learn in the Expanding Networks course.
Done well, networking can give you an edge throughout your career. And it all begins in the office. A real office. Not a virtual one.
Sugita Katyal is an Associate Director with the Curriculum team at Harappa Education. A former journalist and history major, she loves watching crime shows.
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