When looking back at 2020 it seems hard to believe there were two months that the coronavirus didn’t dominate our lives. In mid-February, my friend and co-columnist for Know Your Value, Adrienne Elrod and I had done an interview with “Morning Joe” co-host and Know Your Value founder, Mika Brzezinski.
At the time we had no idea it would be our last in-person interview with Mika in 2020, and that a global pandemic was to follow. And while it was less than a year ago that we were all sitting together at Rockefeller Center, many of the issues we covered in that conversation are perhaps more relevant now.
A few months after the interview, Adrienne joined the successful Joe Biden campaign as director of surrogate strategy and operations. Since the election, she has stayed on as the Inaugural Committee's director of talent and external relations, which is why she is not writing this column with me. Fortunately, we have her great advice and insights from February, which I can share with you.
One of the topics we covered was the importance of having and developing connections, and how they help us throughout our careers. After recently watching the interview through the lens of Covid-19, it became evident that professional connections are more important than ever.
In the world of politics and government, as well as in business, most people assume that having a connection means you have access to someone powerful. Yet, having good connections should also be thought of as having strong relationships with a diverse group of people. However, building and keeping relationships usually takes a personal touch, which has been, to say the very least, difficult to accomplish during a quarantine.
It took months to figure out the best space to do our work: avoid a spouse that was asking what’s for dinner at 10:00 a.m. and figuring out a way to teach our kids the school assignment of the day. Then there were the personal tolls it took on each of us.
Fortunately, with the news of viable vaccines, there appears to be rays of hope of getting back to “normal.” Of course, we must be vigilant as we still have several more months to endure, but we can start to imagine how to rebuild our professional lives.
In a world when in-person meetings are few and far between, maintaining our professional relationships are more important than ever, but how to revive them can also be a challenge.
Adrienne wisely pointed out that one way to build connections is to do your job well and gain the respect of your colleagues. This was much easier to do when you were at the office and your work was easy to recognize. But these days how can you do it while working alone at home and your interaction with others is so limited?
Reach out to your colleagues and update them on your projects, ask for their opinion and offer to do the same. This will allow you to have a dialogue, build on your relationship and have a chance to demonstrate your work ethic.
During the interview we also discussed being accessible and treating people well. In my business I always say to my clients, be good to those you are working with on your way up, because they will remember it when you stumble along the way.
While working throughout this pandemic, we all have had our stumbles. Businesses are hurting and owners have to make a lot of tough decisions. People you know may be facing extremely difficult times. Do not be afraid to contact them, they will always remember it. Supporting colleagues, former clients and friends is easy when they are succeeding, but it takes a lot more time and hard work when times are difficult.
For nearly 10 months our relationships at every level have taken various turns. Some are stronger, some less so. Remember, it is never too late to correct the course. Like personal interactions, our professional connections are also relationships that need to be nurtured. Since the holidays are upon us, use this time to contact not just friends and family, but your professional network, looking toward a brighter year ahead. That will be a welcoming message to all.