For those of you who have been to Bloomington, Indiana, you know it is the quintessential college town. When school is in session, the students are bustling, the campus is hopping, and there is a certain nostalgia in the air. (Of course, the nostalgia could also be due to the fact that I am a proud alumna.)
Part of Bloomington’s charm is that there are so many locally owned restaurants to patron and experience. During the summer, the Graduate Career Service staff takes the lunch hour each Wednesday to visit a new restaurant together. (We also provide a rating on various factors, which proves to be an interesting conversation but is a bit off topic for this post.) Anyhow, this inspired me to use this blog post to offer my perspective on why having lunch with a coworker, or multiple co-workers, will prove to be valuable to you in your career.
1) Get to Know Others: Going to lunch with someone allows you to learn a lot about them. It offers an opportunity for you to learn about who they are as a person. Through lunch time conversation, you will learn about your coworker’s interests, passions, and concerns. Taking time to get to know a coworker better can also help you learn more about his or her style, which in turn helps you work together more effectively.
2) Learn About Your Coworker’s Interests to Stay Connected: Students often ask me how to stay connected with someone after an initial conversation. Going to lunch, or even coffee, with someone and learning about their interests makes this a lot easier. In time, you will learn about common interests and perhaps even different interests that you can discuss with the person over time. This will ultimately help you stay connected and also provide a reason to reach out.
3) Relationships Contribute to Your Success in the Workplace: You can draw parallels between the most successful brands and your personal brand. Just like a brand of anything - if no one in your workplace knows you, that is not a good thing! One way to expand your personal brand footprint is to get to know others. Having lunch, or even coffee, with others is one way to ensure they know you as well as your goals, successes, and challenges. Over time, you need to establish mentors and sponsors and knowing people is a requirement for making this happen!
4) Be Valuable to Others: I think we would all agree that one common way work gets done is through informal discussions. If you are getting to know others, beyond basic work exchanges about what needs to be done, you can really get to the heart of their goals and challenges. You may be able to help them by offering ideas, a different perspective, or even solutions to their business problems. Now that would really make a splash for your personal brand and you’re helping someone else in the process!
5) Get Up From Your Desk – Be Inspired! We often get so focused on our own to-do list and day to day tasks that it is easy to let opportunities to connect with others slip by us. Sometimes people eat lunch every single day at their desk, to me this is a sad state of affairs. I challenge you to get up from your desk and go talk to someone. Invite them to lunch and see what a difference it makes. You may even come back feeling more inspired, more energized, and with different ideas for tackling your work, or even helping someone else!