Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Keeping it real professional

By H.C. Wang

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People know that college is a time of change. It is a period of transition between the carefree days of adolescence and the daunting task of adulthood. It is also a time in which people can change everything about themselves from style of clothing to philosophy on life.

One thing that people might not often consider is the shift in the kinds of relationships they have. Sure, it is obvious when it comes to romantic relationships that college can be less serious. College is a good time for the kinds of exploration and dating around that, in the future, one just would not be capable of. Less obvious are the kinds of friends one hangs around with and the professional ties one builds.

Any relationship – romantic, platonic or professional – is something that needs to be worked at. Sometimes, we forget that we won’t be where we are 10 years from now, and certain things must adjust to suit our morphing situations. The drinking buddies one has now in college may or may not follow into the working world. Sometimes, they really shouldn’t.

Not to say that people and their “bffls” won’t remain such forever, but in my experience, time and circumstances can often drive people apart.

Whether it’s a one-on-one relationship or the dynamic of a group of people, relationships of any caliber can at times be a tricky specimen. Let’s begin with what I think of as the simplest kind of relationship: the professional relationship.

As college students, almost all of us have had some experience with being in professional settings. Although the jobs we hold as teenagers build a strong stepping stone for getting jobs in later life, they can be extremely different atmospherically than the jobs we hold as adults.

First of all, most of the earlier jobs we hold have nothing to do with our eventual chosen career paths. While someone can feel perfectly comfortable to party with their coworkers from the restaurant he or she serves at in college, it is not always wise to apply the same concepts of coworker relationships if that same individual becomes a corporate ladder climber.

Not to advocate paranoia, but in a competitive business world, the previously friendly colleague in the cubicle next door may care more about advancing in the company if a potential promotion is on the table. That being said, it is not impossible to befriend or even date coworkers. It is advisable, however, to avoid calling out sick only to inform certain coworkers that the real reason work is not on the menu today is because someone was up until the wee hours of the morning getting “crunk.” It is better to gain enough knowledge of the positive social points of coworkers in case situations that call for teamwork should arise.

Okay, I know I just said it is not impossible to date coworkers. Let me stress, though, that it is highly not recommended. Professionalism goes right out the window if people are hooking up with their coworkers left and right. It adds entirely new complexities to an otherwise more simple relationship.

It is best to uphold the element of respect when it comes to one’s superiors in the workplace. Nobody wants to be seen as the stiff, unsociable loser of the office, which can in fact work against the employee who wants to be memorable when that promotion rolls around. But, it is probably not a good call to be overly familiar with your superiors. Be personable, but don’t cross any lines by, say, bear-hugging your boss. For holidays, if it is something commonly celebrated like Christmas, feel free to get your employer a present if other people typically do.

Of course first make sure that he or she actually celebrates Christmas to avoid the risk of offending them. Again, use professionalism as a guideline for gift-buying. Nothing overly personal should be given. It can be viewed as brown nosing by the employer and other employees alike. More often than not, keeping things as simplistic as giving a card should express the appropriate thoughts just fine.

Although employers run things in the workplace, they do not completely own their employees as people. Read the employee handbook pertaining to employee rights. If an employer is abusing his or her power and not being called out for the behavior, they may be tempted to walk all over their employees. Be respectful, but be firm about employee rights. If necessary, take it up with their higher ups.

Next up in my series of interpersonal advice, I discuss how to deal with family relationships just in time for the beginning of the holiday season.

Got a problem?  Let H.C. know at [email protected]

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