The first day back to work after the new year I found myself thinking back to my last ‘first day back.’
I have recently started my position with UpHabit, and like so many people, when I begin to experience something new I can’t help but think about the old.
I was thinking about my old coworker, David.
David was fantastic. He was intelligent, helpful, and just the right amount of a comedian for the office. I had not met a single person who had a negative thing to say about him. He very quickly went from being a co-worker to a friend of mine, despite our difference in years and lifestyles. I like to think that he “work-adopted” me.
David taught me a lot about how to operate in a large-office setting: how to word things to better get my point across, how to work with colleagues who I didn't see eye-to-eye with, how to organize my time and better present my ideas. The most important thing he taught me, however, was how to be kind and cognisant to people.
A coworker of ours was let go after what was a tough month early in the year. It was my first time suddenly being out in the cold and missing a valuable member of the team. Instantly I was worried about workload and how we were going to get by. But David’s first instinct was to pass on our coworker’s personal email (they were friends previously, and he got the coworker’s permission first, of course!). He turned to my colleague and me, who were both about as green as a lawn in the first months of July in this type of scenario, and said: “make sure you send a note.”
“Every now and again,” he elaborated, “something small... you’ll never know what difference it will make down the line.”
I mustered up my courage (I’m shy by nature and am habitually bad at keeping in contact -- that’s what comes when you move around as a kid) and sent that email a few days later. Guess what, it just so happened that this colleague was my boyfriend’s tennis opponent ten months later. Their match sparked another conversation between the two of us. The world is small, and I think that we wouldn’t have made that connection again if it wasn’t for that initial contact. Plus now they’ve gone from one-time opponents by chance to planning recurring matches.
There was another instance where David astounded me with his ability to call up a former classmate from (20? 30? Let’s not get into that…) years ago to help us develop and build a new program from its infancy. As soon as the pen hit the paper with our ideas, David knew just who to talk to. Within minutes he had sent off an email, and by the next day, we had a project partner. I have never met someone who was so well able to recall and reconnect with any person from his past. He could find people the same way that I found articles on the web. Except every single person was his friend.
Since I left my position as David’s coworker, I spent a lot of time thinking about how he has been doing. How were the projects going that we worked on together, had he finished his renovations, how was his son doing in university?
Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, I am one of those anxious people who tend to think.. and not do. It took me a surprising amount of time to write out that email saying “Happy new year! I hope things are going well.” I wrote and rewrote, agonized over the words that I was using to make sure that it came out ‘just so.’ It took me two hours of clicking back and forth (rewriting that email every time I was taking a break from work!) until I was finally ready to send it.
And he responded within minutes.
I aspire to be like David. He is seemingly capable in all the ways that I am not. He has this innate ability to charm the socks off of any person he meets, and he has the drive to keep in contact with every single one of them. He taught me that the value of your relationship is more than the cost that it takes to contact them (for me that's a mental cost, but for others, it could be time). Keeping in touch requires little in the grand scheme of things, and the ROI is priceless.
Life doesn’t slow down. Not even close! But I have learned that an emphasis on kindness in your relationships (even just through a simple hello, how are you) can stand the test of time.
For those of us that aren’t as gifted at maintaining our relationships, UpHabit can help to streamline and categorize these relationships, take notes of meetings, and set reminders for further contact. By choosing to prioritize your professional relationships, you’ll be taking the first step towards enriching your career with high-value and authentic connections. Read more about us here, and sign up here for news of our beta launch.
David, for the record, is doing well. We’re planning on getting dim sum the next time he is in town (one of our inside jokes).