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How to make friends when you’re new on the job

Beth Brady, CMO of The Principal Financial GroupBeth Brady, CMO of The Principal Financial Group
Beth Brady, CMO of The Principal Financial GroupCourtesy of Principal Financial

The Fortune 500 Insider Network is our newest online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Beth Brady, CMO of The Principal Financial Group, has answered the question: How do you make friends at a new job?

I learned long ago that to be successful in any job, you have to be able to get along with coworkers. That means developing relationships, and often times those working relationships evolve into friendships. But building those friendships at work starts with building credibility and trust.

A year ago, I took a new position with Principal Financial Group (PFG) in Des Moines, Iowa. This exciting endeavor meant a lot of newness: industry, job, city, people, restaurants, home. And perhaps most important, relationships — both professional ones and ones outside the office.

Relationships are critical, and the friendships you make at a new job can even make or break your career. Here are some key principles that have helped me over the years:

1. Be curious

Ask a lot of questions. Focus on striving to understand why people think the way they do about the decisions they make and actions they take. Whenever I begin a new role, I try to meet one-on-one with the people I work with in order to learn about them and the culture. It helps me get the lay of the land and is an important start to building relationships. It shows a sincere interest in others — not only as employees, but as people. You can build strong work relationships that develop into friendships over time.

2. Be the kind of person you want to work with

Enough said.

3. Treat people with respect

This isn’t rocket science, but I sometimes think the stress of the workplace can overshadow basic human kindness.

4. Stay true to your values

I strive to never lose sight of who I am and what I believe in. If I am not my authentic self, I won’t be able to do great work. Be proud of what you stand for and find positive ways to take your values into the work environment.

Taking the next step to turn positive work relationships into friendships requires going the extra mile. Some things to think about:

Step away from technology

With the click of a button, you can be instant cyber friends with someone or connect to hundreds of people who are within your six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Technology and social media are an important aspect to networking, but we need to put down technology and use face-to-face interaction with colleagues — and not just about work. Take a few minutes to ask about hobbies, passions or family. That is where your true relationships lie.

Put yourself out there

No matter the title, level or tenure, I believe one must genuinely want to make friends. Like any relationship, it takes effort. The first step is to talk, but it’s important to become an even better listener.

Make it a priority

Work friends are just as vital as our daily deadlines. With busy schedules and work demands, it’s easy to let this fall to the bottom of a to-do list. I try to make it a priority — even if it’s something as simple as walking around or setting up a lunch with a person I don’t know very well.

Get involved

Being involved in activities is a great way to meet people and get to know them. In my new role at The Principal, one of my first priorities was to set up a group that created fun activities for my entire team to participate in.

Set realistic expectations

Relationships — whether good working relationships or friendships — take time to develop. Colleagues need to see you in action: how you handle things on the job and how you treat the people with whom you interact with (and vice versa).

By definition, I am a textbook extrovert, so meeting new coworkers comes naturally to me. That’s why many of my best friends are former and current work colleagues. Yet even to this day, walking into a room of unfamiliar faces can be uncomfortable. The steps and principles above make meeting new people much easier and have helped me successfully build solid relationships. Who knows — your next great friend could only be a desk or two away. I encourage you to find out.