PHS033 Quick Career Tip - Invest in your professional relationships

Quick career tips: Invest in your professional relationships

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Show Notes

Today’s career tip spotlight is on investing in your professional relationships, because, like in life, relationships take you far in your career.

Sujani provides a few examples of how relationships have taken her far in her career, and follows up by answering the following two questions:

  1. Who do I build relationships with?
  2. How do I build strong professional relationships?

You’ll learn:

  • You can choose anyone in your professional circle to build a relationship with; it’ll be a trial and error process. Think beyond your team, department, and even organization when deciding who to build relationships with.
  • When building your professional network, think about these general categories: Who will support me when I am faced with a tough decision at work? Whose advice do I respect – at a peer level and at a manager level? Who is part of other great networks that I can also leverage and be a part of? Who will recommend me for great opportunities? Who is well connected?
  • Your network is your net worth.
  • Building strong professional relationships, like any other relationship, takes time.
  • List of actions to take immediately to start building your network.


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Episode Transcript

Sujani 0:02
Welcome to PH SPOTlight, a community for you to build your public health career with. Join Us Weekly right here. And I’ll be here too, your host Sujani Siva from PH SPOT.

Sujani 0:18
Hi, everyone. Thank you for joining me today on another episode of PH SPOTlight a space for you and me and everyone else in public health to share our stories and inspire each other. My name is Sujani Siva, the host of PH SPOTlight, and I’m here to help you build your public health career. And today, welcome to another episode of Quick career tips. And today on this episode, I want to talk to you about a tip that’s actually at the very top of my list. It’s about relationships and their importance in your career. Relationships, like in life take you very far in your career. So today, my career tip is invest in your professional relationships. Let me first start by giving you examples from my own life where relationships have taken me far in my career, job opportunities from individuals who are a part of my professional network come to mind first, I have received many job postings that were being sent my way from past colleagues and managers, and have been recommended for interviews through these individuals as well. These individuals whom I have built strong relationships with, think about me when they see certain job postings. Perhaps I would have seen these postings myself or not, especially if I’m not actively looking. But sometimes there’s a very neat opportunity out there that makes you reconsider your career move. Anyways, the point here is that someone other than yourself is screening a job posting, assessing that you’re a good fit, and then putting it in front of you. Not only are they bringing attention to this job opportunity for me, they’re also giving me the confidence that I’m well suited for this role, which goes a long way. My job then is to see if it’s something I’d like to apply for and then apply. As I mentioned, I receive postings like this from past and current colleagues, as well as managers current and past. And I’m just so grateful to them. And so whether I’m looking for a new opportunity or not having these job postings set my way is a good way for me to assess my current role to see if there are other exciting opportunities to consider, or even having the back of my mind for the future, right? The second example I want to share with you is a very important one, and it’s around support. I have built many strong relationships in my professional circle with individuals whom I really lean on, and seek advice from when needing to make difficult decisions in my career and job. These decisions include deciding on or negotiating a job offer, or how to approach difficult situations at work, such as disagreements, or if I’m being unfairly treated. Rather than try and figure these issues out on my own, I seek advice from those in my professional support group, some of whom I have depended on for over eight years. So as you can see, the relationships you build in your professional life are not just beneficial for you to find the next job. The people in your professional network are an important pillar in your career and almost essential for you to thrive in your space.

Sujani 3:37
So with those two examples, I hope I’ve convinced you that it’s important to invest in your professional relationships. And you’re probably now wondering, okay, I’m on board with investing in my relationships. But I have two questions. who do I build these relationships with? And how do I build strong relationships? And so I’m going to get into that very quickly. Let’s take the first question, who should I be investing time in for my professional relationship? Really, you can choose anyone in your professional circle, and it’ll be a trial and error process. You won’t know right away upon meeting someone whether they will be a valuable person to have on your side. So build relationships with your peers, managers, executives, and even those who report to you. You don’t necessarily need to be working directly with an individual even to reach out to them. The relationships you build in your professional circle do not need to be with those whom you have worked with. Think beyond your team, department and even organization and think about the whole public health community. Each person in your professional circle that you do end up reaching out to and building relationships with whether they’re your peers, staff or managers will have something to offer you and you to offer them, which we’ll get into when we talk about the next question. But it may not become clear right away when you engage with them. But when an opportunity or struggle presents itself, it will become clear to you who you can reach out to. So, you know, just to start off thinking about these general categories, who will support me when I’m faced with a tough decision at work? Whose advice do I respect, both at a peer level and at a manager level, who is part of other great networks that I can also leverage and be a part of, who will recommend me for great opportunities? who is well connected? You may have heard the saying your network is your net worth. In the literal sense, net worth refers to money. But it can also refer to opportunities, support and mentorship which are priceless. So invest time and getting to know your public health community of peers. Now on to the second key point, how do you build strong relationships? The simple answer is the same way you build friendships. Know that building strong professional relationships, like any other relationship takes time. And it’s a two way stream. Be curious, genuinely curious about the other person when it comes to their needs and interests, and also offer up help the same way you’re looking for their support. Some actions you can take immediately include setting up regular informal coffee dates or check ins with colleagues at your organization. Even those whom you don’t work with directly. Make it a point to have small talk with people you bump into in the hallways, take initiatives to go on breaks with them, and participate in after work activities. I know we’re in the middle of a pandemic. And different jurisdictions have different regulations right now. So this can be especially difficult. So think about how you can leverage our virtual world to still achieve these goals. Virtual coffee meetings or virtual mentorship calls are some ways to do this. For example, when anyone new starts at my organization, and I’m fascinated with their background or previous work, I make it a point to reach out to them, to welcome them, and to set up a call with them. Even if I’m not directly working with them. I will either send an email, engage in a messaging conversation, or just ask them if they’re be interested in a virtual call. This often gets the ball rolling for future interactions. In addition, when I’m stuck with a decision to make about my career, I think to myself, who in my network could I speak to about this, I intentionally make it a point to reach out to someone to talk through my problems or struggles when it comes to my career. The first time I intended on doing this is very difficult, and it felt very awkward. But after that first time, I’ve become comfortable reaching out to old managers to say, “Hey, I’m stuck on a decision with a job offer. Could I speak to you about it?” Like anything building relationships takes time and practice makes perfect. So you have to put the work in so that it becomes a natural process.

Sujani 8:01
So I hope you’ll take this career tip and put it at the very top of your list of things to consider and implement. It’s one of the best things I’ve done for my career, and I hope you will be able to see that too. Thanks for joining me on this episode spotlighting a career tip and before you leave, I wanted to let you know that PH SPOT has some great products for students early and established public health professionals on our website at So be sure to check those out. And if you want to see notes from today’s episode, head on over to pH Until next time, thank you so much for tuning into PH SPOTlight and for the invaluable work that you do for this world.


About the Show

PH SPOTlight: Public health career stories, inspiration, and guidance from current-day public health heroes

On the show, Sujani sits down with public health heroes of our time to share career stories, inspiration, and guidance for building public health careers. From time to time, she also has conversations with friends of public health – individuals who are not public health professionals, but their advice and guidance are equally important.

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