If you’re poking around the internet reading about ways to grow your career, chances are that it genuinely matters to you. Assuming you already know the value of (and are) surrounding yourself with people who build you up, support you, and who are equally motivated, it can be fun to do things with your friends that actually benefit everyone’s careers.
1. Commit to an outing where you do not talk about work. OK, this is pretty basic but it's also pretty important — and do-able. Even if work is priority at the highest rank for all your pals, it’s super important to create some space for different topics of conversation and activities. Suggest doing something or having a whole evening out where no one (and I mean no one!) brings up work. Make it fun by creating a “penalty” — if someone brings up work she has to buy an appetizer for the table or maybe do a “dare” if you’re looking to have some silly fun.
2. Designate time to talk about work. On the flipside, when your career matters to you and your pals, work comes up. In the same way that it’s beneficial to dedicate “work-free” time, it can be helpful, and oddly fun, to talk about work. Just keep the negativity to a minimum and focus on constructive talk only.
3. Share regular updates on successes you have. A coaching client of mine once told me that she never tells her friends about all the great successes she has at work. Just a few minutes later it she mentioned that it bothers her that her friends aren’t supportive of all the great things she feels she’s doing. That was until I pointed out that she created an unspoken protocol that her work was off-limits, and she truly didn’t see it.
If work matters to you, you need to make that clear in your relationships (friends included) and regularly share each day! This will create an open, positive and supportive environment, and it will allow you to get to know a different side of your friends and give you the opportunity to share great successes, which we all enjoy.
4. Do an improv class. I did this with two friends recently (and made a new friend in the class) so I can say firsthand that the applications of improv to the professional world and the parallels in a few coaching concepts are uncanny!
It’s something different, something a little uncomfortable for many, and it's something that's certainly fun. It also brings up new ways to approach communication, flexibility and brainstorming, which are all characteristics of any strong professional.
5. Try new things regularly. Maybe improv’s not your thing, and that’s OK. Instead, with a group of friends or one friend, commit to trying one new thing every month, quarter or few weeks. The point is you’re trying something brand new. This keeps things new and exciting in your life and helps to create muscle memory about being open to trying new things. There are tons of ideas for a weekend, day or night out with the girls out there. Maybe you have a picnic or throw a dinner party. Maybe you have a spa day with your best friends or, if you live in a city, try out all the food the city has to offer. If you live near a coast, hit the beach. There are tons of activities and games for each friends'family to join, too, like going to an amusement park or hitting up a yard sale. Maybe you just play in the park with all of your kids if you have some. You could have a movie marathon and stay inside all night as you play a whole list of new movies and eat ice cream. Whatever it is that's on your bucket list, make a day, night or weekend of it and have a good time. Life is too short to not enjoy activities with your best friends.
6. Invite each other to business events. Those networking events that you know you should go to can be actually pretty fun with a pal. Going to an event with a friend makes it less awkward but most women I speak with then tell me they end up talking with their friend all night. Reminder: This really isn’t the point. Make it more fun and mutually beneficial by challenging each other to talk to new people at events — make it a game!
7. Spark conversation with new people in non-professional places. Let's face it, it's fun to suggest to a single girlfriend go chat up a cute guy at a bar. This might seem unrelated to professional growth or even unkind for a friend, but hear me out... The act of striking up (and holding) a conversation with a stranger is a skill that will never not benefit you professionally or personally. Just like you might make a challenge at a networking event to get 3 new contacts, consider making a challenge to strike up a conversation with three people on an evening out. It doesn't have to be romantic. It can just be the person sitting next to you at a sporting event, asking your waiter about his or her day, or having a short conversation with another woman as you wait in line for the bathroom. You'll grow your comfort in new, sometimes awkward, settings and maybe meet a new friend or partner along the way!
8. Talk about each other. Many people don't find it enjoyable to brag about themselves but do like to brag about someone else we're proud of. Do this! Start getting comfortable bringing up your friends in professional conversations. Let your pals know you’re doing it and suggest they do the same.
Professional fulfillment is important to many, but don’t neglect your personal relationships while achieving success. Especially when there are ways like this to do both!
Jane Scudder is a certified leadership and personal development coach, facilitator, and workplace & strategy consultant based in Chicago, IL. She helps individuals and group navigate their careers, teams, and personal lives. Find out more at janescudder.com.