Connections That Can Make or Break Your Career

It may be tempting to address relationships with some Machiavellian, cold mindset but, with a little guidance, you can understand the types of connections that can either make or break your career.

Connections That Can Make or Break Your Career

Relationships are at the core of every single business; successful careers require healthy connections to carry you up the ladder of success. Ninety percent of jobs are found through networking, so it is essential for any prospective employee to have the right connections. But not just any connections. While we may have our friends and loved ones in the real world, the business world is driven by a code of conduct and behavior that trickles down into all elements of the work environment—including interpersonal relationships.

To be the best, you need to understand how relationships can either carry you to the upper echelons of society, or drag you down to the gutter. It may be tempting to address relationships with some Machiavellian, cold mindset—seeing people as stepping stones to your destination—but, with a little guide, you can understand the sort of connections that can either make or break your career.

No Connection

Image via Damian Zaleski

Sometimes we may have absolutely no connection with those around us. You may be the kind of person who can be in a crowd of people and feel alone. You might have trouble finding your voice around others, or may fear that you're going to say the wrong words when talking to a potential benefactor. And you probably know that every unsaid word or unuttered speech is all just a missed chance at success. Get to know the person in the workplace and see what they can offer. It can start with a joke or a smile. The Irish poet W.B. Yeats once said, “There are no strangers, only friends you haven’t yet met”

Next time you see someone you don’t know, introduce yourself and expand your network. Keep an open mind about who you build a connection with. The path this strategy carries you on might surprise you. Try and meet one new person today. Find out about the people around you. Turn, talk—whatever. You might foster a connection that can construct your next opportunity.

Toxic Connections

These must be addressed as a matter of priority. In some workplaces, there are toxic employees who poison everything they touch. They have bad relationships with others, preform badly at work and worst of all wish to drag others down to their level. Spending time with this person makes you unhappy and sabotages your success.

If you are in a toxic connection with someone, do everything you can to get that person out of your life. Toxic people latch on like a leech, and suck you dry. They take and take from you, but offer nothing in return. Often, you may not realize that the relationship is toxic. Sometimes, the person may be so sweet to you that you may experience a euphoria like a sugar-high. But ask yourself this: what does this person offer me other than pain? Other than anxiety? After weighing the benefits fostered by continuing contact with this person against what you'd gain from cutting this person out of your life, make the decision you find will benefit you most. Cut out toxic presences from your life.

Connections with Room for Improvement

Sure, sometimes this person drives you nuts. Sure, this person can have moments where they goof off and not do any work. Still, you could put a bit of effort into your relationship with this other person to make it go from okay to great. Try being nice to them. Invite them over to your house for dinner. Hit the pub after work for a beer.

But socializing isn't enough. Find out more about the person, and how you can help them. You cannot foster a relationship with the pure intention of sucking the other guy of all potential. Relationships are a two-way street. The benefits of investing in a connection are always unpredictable. Always invest in others expecting nothing in return. Maybe nothing will come out of helping this other person, but there is a strong chance this person will return the favor—maybe after a day or a few years. Connections can open doors to new jobs or a whole array of adventures.

Great Connections

Photo by Kevin Curtis

Friendship. A bond between two individuals on an intimate, close, earnest level. The best connection between people, especially in the business world, is friendship. People are always open to helping their friends out. Business is a cutthroat system, so it pays to have someone on your sideas long as you take their side when the time comes to reciprocate.

This is the goal for all business relationships, but sometimes this is impossible. A toxic person probably isn't good material for friendship. You need, however, at least a few friends. Share all the time with your great connections. Offer tips, knowledge, books, connections or whatever it may be that your friends need. Those that give, get. Friendships must be tended like flowers in a garden. Water, feed, and foster them. If you starve the friendship, it will wither away.

Connections that can make or break your career are best addressed through these exercises which will help you determine what you need to address and what you need to do pertaining to your relationships.

Network Maps

Photo by Daria Shevtsova

A useful exercise for mapping your business relationships and connections with those around you is to create a network map. Map out the people you are close to, then map out who those individuals are close to, and so on. Doing this will give you an idea of the quality (and benefits) of your relationships and where you should improve. You might find toxic people you need to remove from your life, or people with whom you can foster a friendship. Evaluate every relationship you have in your live.

Apply Stakeholder Analysis to Yourself

Photo by Luis Llerena

Do a simple x/y grid. Label the bottom part of the chart “interest,” and the vertical part “power.” Plot the names of those you know within the graph. This strategy will help you to understand who you need a better connection with and those that you should connect with less.

This is a great tool for business and can help you understand who can help you move up in your career. In the graph, use “interest” to denote how much interest you have in developing your relationship with the individual—specifically, can he or she help you land a new deal? For “power”, consider how many resources this person has at his or her disposal. Do they have access to information which can help you? Those with the highest ratings for “interest” and “power” demand the largest amount of your attention and are those which will effect your career the most. Invest the largest amount of time into these.

By addressing the connections that can make or break your career, and by building strong intentional relationships with those who you wish to connect with, you are taking control of your life—choosing to be successful. Build a network map of your connections, and reflect on the link between your relationships and your goals. While all of this may sound borderline sociopathic, charting strategically who you need to know to be successful will give you a huge boost to your career. And, God forbid, you might add some cool new people to your social circle. Cut out toxic relationships that can break you, and, instead, invest that energy into building meaningful relationships with your potential benefactors—the kind of people who can truly build your career.

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Anthony Gramuglia

Obsessive writer fueled by espresso and drive. Into speculative fiction, old books, and long walks. Follow me at

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