Understanding why professional relationships are unique

May 4, 2018

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By Brian Maynor


Navigating our careers can feel isolating at times, but if we’re lucky we are never really alone.

Whether it’s during a crisis, exploring new opportunities or just staying connected and informed, our network, of professional colleagues is always there for guidance and support, but we shouldn’t confuse them with our friends.

Friends are the people we turn to when we want emotional support or guidance, while professional relationships should steer clear of emotional entanglement, but that’s not the only difference between the two.

Here are some of the other ways in which professional relationships are unique and different from our personal ones:

1.   They form organically.  Unlike friendships, the best professional relationships are rarely formed organically.  While it’s important that we share common interests, goals and genuinely like our friends these are not the qualities we want in our professional relationships.  If our professional relationships are too similar to ourselves they are not effective at helping us understand differing points of view, positions or even ideas.  We need diversity more than anything with professional relationships, and that means we should build them strategically and deliberately instead of relying on conventional methods.

2.    They tend to be one-sided.  While one-sided friendships rarely withstand the test of time, professional ones can do, because they are more focused on long-term objectives and opportunities.  As new professionals we tend to have very little to offer our contacts in return for their help and support, but that changes as we advance in our careers, and professional contacts tend to value that possibility over immediate reciprocity.

3.    The stronger the connection the more valuable the relationship.  This may be the case with friendships, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth for professional relationships.  The reason we trust our inner circle of friends with such intensity and devotion is because of a common bond.  This closeness and connection are limiting when it comes to professional contacts.  Since the value of a professional network lies in its breadth, we have to connect with people we don’t know very well, if at all.  Those connections offer the most valuable insight and connectivity because they are so far removed from ourselves.

Relationships are very important in life, both professional and personal, but they couldn’t be more different.  With personal relationships our closest friends tend to be the most valuable, whereas with professional ones the most valuable are the farthest removed.  In a way professional networks are the antithesis of our personal ones, but that is what makes them work.




I’m always excited to hear from you, so please email your questions, quandaries and conundrums to [email protected].


About Brian Maynor

Brian Maynor has built a reputation as one of the leading style coaches in the Southeast and is quickly expanding his eponymous company, BRIAN MAYNOR and his FIND, FLATTER & FLAUNT line of image consulting services. A professional with a fresh, upbeat and down-to-earth personality and boundless creative energy, he works frequently with with local celebrities; Fortune 500 companies and nonprofit organizations; modeling agencies; fashion designers; production companies; record labels; media and individuals. A regular contributor to various fashion blogs and online communities, Brian Maynor is one of the most trusted and recognized style experts in the region, utilizing his education and training as a broadcast journalist to serve as a style lecturer, emcee, and commentator for over a decade. He has appeared at fashion shows, expos, and charity fundraisers, as well as events with big brands like Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Chico’s and Macy’s. His approach is innovative, creative and fashion-forward, balancing fresh, modern styles with classic pieces to keep one’s look grounded. To learn more, visit http://www.brianmaynor.com.


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