Your Friends are an Important Professional Resource

Friends meeting at a table

We suffer through a lot of suboptimal weather in Canada, but when summer finally kicks in, it feels worth the wait. Some time ago, I found myself taking advantage of one particularly spectacular summer day by hosting a barbeque. Despite exasperatingly accurate comments that “potato salad should not be that colour,” the barbeque was amazing. The guests were all people I knew very well, though they didn’t know each other. This, I suspect was part of what made the event so enjoyable: aside from the comments about my potato salad, the most consistent feedback I got from my guests was how blown away they were by the other people they met. I take pride in surrounding myself with exceptional people, and I think you should too.

If you’re wondering what all this has to do with recruitment or finance jobs, I don’t blame you. It’ll probably help if you think of this as an oblique approach to the grey area between your personal and professional lives. That’s the crux of the issue right there – the concept of a personal versus professional life. Certainly, there are aspects of each that should remain compartmentalized. Your boss probably wouldn’t appreciate being greeted with a kiss on the cheek, and I doubt your spouse requires a ten-page memo outlining your upcoming grocery run.

But our personal lives do inform our professional lives, in finance jobs and beyond, and nowhere is this more prevalent than in the people we associate with. Tony Robbins’ mentor Jim Rohn famously said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with – it’s something I’ve touched on before. If you have a partner, kids, parents, in-laws, etc., you probably spend most of your time with them. Since you can’t (or at the very least, shouldn’t) opt out of those relationships, we can view them as a baseline – they’re not really part of your five-person-average. This means that you get to choose the people in your five, and that’s not a choice to be taken lightly.

The impact of your friends can be limited to your personal life, if you so choose. And if all you want from them is to drag you out hiking or introduce you to your new favourite sushi restaurant, that’s okay. But your five closest friends represent greater potential for growth than just expanding your culinary horizons; if you let them, they can make you smarter. And as far as your career is concerned, your friends can bring you closer to the people and solutions that will give you a definitive edge.

The thing to remember is that you aren’t a finished product. Personally, I find that relieving: what would I do with myself if I had reached the limits of my personal growth? Maybe I’d take up knitting… Regardless, we should all strive for continual improvement, whether that means cutting down your 10k time or upping the ante at your finance jobs. Sometimes, that means spending time with people who are smarter or more interesting than you are; sometimes, that means viewing your network less as a phonebook and more like an encyclopedia.

For instance, when I think I’m about to revolutionize the way I and everyone else in recruitment do business, I reach out to my friend Ryan, who has worked in business development for years at some really cool companies. He’s better than I am at sales, so he can give me blunt but useful feedback, and ways to test the idea further. He’s also interested in developing himself, so I freely offer my help where I can.

If I begin to suspect that some of my methods are antiquated, I call Fenton. He works as an innovation consultant and has experience as a strategist, so he makes a living thinking outside the box. He can always help me see angles I never knew existed. He’s also interested in developing himself, so I freely offer my help where I can.

When I want to expound my thoughts, challenge my beliefs, or better understand ideas, I talk to Sohaib. Sohaib worked with the UN, is a master’s candidate at Harvard Kennedy School, and is a genius at dissecting big ideas. I was talking with Sohaib at a bar once, and watched as a provincial Liberal candidate overheard our conversation, joined us, and then asked Sohaib to work on his campaign. 

If you’re seeing a trend here, it’s no mistake. In areas of value to my life and to my career, I have people in my circle who push me to grow and improve. I know that even if we’re just out grabbing a drink, I’m going to come away with a few things to think about. These people aren’t just entries in my phone book to call on if I think they can help me get closer to a career opportunity; they’re extensions of my network who each offer a unique catalyst for my personal growth, just as I offer reciprocal opportunities for their personal development. Nobody likes a one-sided relationship, after all.

‘Recruiting friends’ is more than just collecting business cards – it’s something organic. Find incredible people who embody the aptitudes and insights you want to see in yourself, and make those people your friends. Since incredible people rarely have ordinary friends, each new connection you make reveals a new circle of compelling individuals and the opportunities they all represent.

Even so, no single person is going to turn junior finance jobs into top-level executive positions overnight. But by cultivating your friends with a specific set of goals in mind, you can steer your career in the direction of your choosing. There’s always going to be a new way to bring yourself closer to what you want and whom you want to be, but it’s incumbent upon you to keep making the right connections. It takes a village.

Growth comes from all sorts of places. Maybe that weekend you spent alone in the mountains really changed your perspective. But if you’re looking for ways to keep growing and achieving within your professional roles (and who isn’t?) try looking outward. Think of something right now that you wish you could do better. You know that friend-of-a-friend who’s always up to something incredible? Have your mutual friend make the introduction, and start growing. Don’t know that friend-of-a-friend that’s always up to something incredible? Tell your friends you want to expand your network and ask them to set you up with the smartest person they know. It’s almost criminal to be inside on these summer afternoons in Vancouver anyway, so get out there…together!

There’s always more to a story than can fit on a page. Get in touch today to learn more about my story, or to find out how I can help change yours for the better.

 

Shane Gagnon is the Director of Clarity Recruitment Vancouver, with six years of experience in the industry. This is his personal blog, where you can expect to find not only insights from his endeavour to disrupt the recruitment industry, but also a glimpse into his pursuit of a satisfying career for himself and the finance/accounting professionals of Vancouver. Join Shane for each new post, as he reveals the journey that brought him here, and where he plans to go next.