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Birds of a Feather

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By Shun McGheeodd_one_out-300x160
Contributor, Career Services

My late father used to say to me, “Man, birds of a feather flock together.” A phrase he repeated countless times when I was a teenager. You see, I was a less than mediocre student with the potential to excel. Believing this too my father used his birds of a feather quote to urge me to do better. He attributed a portion of my substandard performance to my personal associations. He grew up similar to me, in that he belonged to a neighborhood crew of guys so tight they were more like family than friends. In my crew he saw his crew, and was keen to point out that to achieve something greater I would need to focus on my studies. After all, dad saw that all of us went to the same parties, maintained the same basketball playing schedule, and got the same grades.

In his opinion, focusing on my studies would do one of two things. It would cause me to fall in with another group of kids that studied hard and sever my current friendships or it would encourage my friends to do better and we would achieve together. He knew the former statement was more likely than the latter.

By the grace of God I got into college and finished Thank You Laude. It was in college I began to understand how true my father’s words were about associations. Though I never qualified for any academic scholarships, my friends did. I am convinced my desire to complete college combined with my friendships helped me become a college graduate. Now a member of the working world, I take this same understanding to the job.

The group you come in with at orientation may serve you well for your first 6 months to a year. Because you are all getting acclimated to company culture and finding your way, you have a binding commonality. As you become more goal oriented and seek upward and lateral movement keep in mind there may come a time when you have to change your personal or professional associations to reach your goals. Making this type of switch doesn’t mean you are belittling anyone else but it acknowledges that mobility typically happens as a result of being part of a network. Entering new networks typically takes conscious concerted effort. Just as you needed a network to help you learn company culture and get settled you will also need support from others to progress. Realizing this, it is important to begin building the appropriate relationships to help you expand your network.

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