Updated on 06.18.07

Want To Maximize Your Career? Here Are The Ten People You Need To Know At Work

Trent Hamm

DiscussionWhen you walk into a new job for the first time, it’s often not clear what the culture of the organization is or what exactly you will truly be doing in your job. It might also be very unclear what exactly is expected of you, and also what your opportunities are for advancement.

Naturally, it’s great to cultivate relationships with your peers (the people who work regularly with you), but no matter the culture of the organization, it’s worth your time to get to know a few other people as well, as they can help you out greatly without much effort on their part.

Here are ten people you should get to know in your organization as soon as possible to make your job go smoother and also maximize your promotion opportunities later.

The boss This is the most obvious one on the list, and this is also the first person you should know. When you’re new, don’t hesitate to ask questions and use those as leverage for conversations. The questions shouldn’t express a cluelessness in your job, but should instead invite the boss to open up a bit. Ask questions about general organizational culture, and look for opportunities to ask questions directly about your boss’s role in defining that culture and the direction of the organization as a whole. In short, get the boss to open up by making him or her feel good about their role; you can do this by asking questions that allow for reflection on

The boss’s boss If you have a chance to meet people further up the ladder, be sure to make your name known to them. Shake hands firmly and be very direct. If the opportunity permits, state your pleasure in being with the organization and ask questions similar to how you opened the door with your boss. Mostly, the key here is to cultivate a positive presence and hopefully name recognition up the ladder.

The janitor Not only does this person help keep your area clean, this person hears a ton of things about what’s going on at work. Befriending the janitor will not only improve the service that you get in terms of cleanliness, but it also give you an insight into a lot of things that are going on. In my previous organization, the janitor was almost always the first person to know if there were promotions, firings, hirings, and reorganizations coming down the pike.

The administrative assistant Be very nice to the administrative assistant who manages any paperwork you may file. Don’t ever forget to regularly stop by just to ask how he/she is doing. Listen to venting and empathize. Not only will this make things smoother for you when you need secretarial services, a secretary sees a lot of things pass over his/her desk.

The boss’s secretary Similar to how you treat your secretary, you should treat the boss’s secretary well, too, but for different reasons. The boss’s secretary will be able to make sure that things you turn in are reviewed quickly and also properly attributed, which can be vital if you’ve ever had anything stuck in “secretary purgatory.”

The boss’s boss’s secretary This is very similar logic to why you should favor the boss’s secretary, but this relationship mostly ensures that you’ll at least have access up the food chain if need be.

The person with the most seniority close to you in job rank This person usually has a huge amount of knowledge of what’s going on in the workplace, both in terms of your actual job function and also the culture of what’s going on around you. This person can be an amazing resource for straight shooting on how to get things done.

The human resources person assigned to you The human resources personnel are usually overlooked until they’re needed, and then they’re basically demanded. When you have a pressing HR need, it’s going to go much smoother (and much more likely in your favor) if you have a good standing relationship with the HR officer.

The IT specialist assigned to you The logic is almost idential to the HR person, except the IT specialist can get you back to work quickly if you have a good relationship with them. A good way of handling this is to occasionally just chat with the IT specialist if you see an opportunity and send a thank you note after everything that they do for you.

The person with the most job knowledge close to you in job rank Basically, this is the smartest person in your peer group. You should naturally make friends with everyone in your peer group, but make a special effort to reach out to anyone who has a strong grasp of the technical aspects of their job.

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  1. SJ says:

    This is a great list – I’ve always found it super important to be nice to the support staff anywhere you work (janitorial staff, secretaries, IT) – everyone wants to be appreciated for their work, and those folks are the ones who keep us all moving!

    It also can be very helpful when there is a problem to have those folks know who you are and feel friendly towards you – I’ve had many circumstances where just being a person who says hello to everyone and is polite allowed me to get things done more quickly and pleasantly.

    Also, when someone in HR or IT or another group does a particularly good job for you, it is always nice to go out of your way to let their supervisor knows how helpful they have been towards accomplishing that meeting/hiring/fix, etc.

  2. Terry says:

    We don’t have a janitor or a secretary, or an IT person assigned to me (we have an outside IT person who comes in as needed), or a human resources person (that’s the boss, I guess). I am my own janitor.

  3. mjk says:

    do more than merely remember “trinkets” and smiles for the secretary. understand and respect their role as the first line of defense to important people. whether we like to admit it or now, this is one of the roles they’re hired.

  4. PF says:

    I was an admin assistant for 12 years. People had no idea how much influence I had. I would set up the interviews for my group and I was always asked about how that process went. Anyone who was “high maintenance” with me was out. There are a lot of things I knew…ways to get around the system or work the system…contacts that I had cultivated. If you were friendly and professional with me, I would go waaaay out of my way to help and use my knowledge and network to help you. If someone was arrogant or unpleasant, I would still be professional and do my job, but there are always degrees of helpfulness.

    By the way, Secretary is becoming an outdated term.

    Also, perhaps I am unusual in this regard, but I found “secretary’s day” demeaning. It seemed so patronizing that somehow I wasn’t a professional and needed a special day to get my little recognition. My group (gratefully) learned to ignore it at my request.

  5. j&w says:

    Yeah, it’s vanishingly rare these days for there to be multiple or “assigned” secretaries anywhere I’ve worked or seen – even in lawyer’s offices. Just an overworked team of admin staff ….. I’ve always found that the person with the longest tenure in the office is the best person to “cultivate” – whether that person is the receptionist, some mid-level manager, or a senior exec. Also the firm’s oldest client is often someone to impress; they often know your office systems/SOPs inside out and are usually on good, friendly terms with your boss. A good word from a good client is worth a lot.

  6. Rich says:

    Get to know them or suck up to them? I would think you’d get to know all these people anyhow without looking for a reason or having a hidden agenda. Maybe that’s not the point of your story… I would think just being good at what you do and being a good person would be good enough. By the way, I’m in IT and I don’t treat people who talk to me any different than people who are too busy to talk.

  7. It’s a good list, and I ‘know’ most of these people. Some of them know me as well. But unfortunately I am not real good at ‘schmoozing’, so it is a challenge to really get to know some of those people well. Nevertheless, a good list!

  8. Dorky Dad says:

    Excellent advice, though if applicable, I would add three more: the receptionist, cafeteria workers, mail-room workers for the same reasons as getting to know the janitors.

  9. Karen Porter says:

    Interesting article. Even if you’re not a good schmoozer, just offering a consistent pleasant greeting, basic small talk or a helping hand now and then can be good for these relationships. You’d be surprised how people might remember you—especially if you’re one of the few people that consistently greets and speaks to them (and does so respectfully too because not everybody acts so), even briefly.

    Regarding secretaries, the general term today is usually administrative professional though there are a lot of variations on the title.

    I have some specific information about what you’re referring to as Secretary’s Day on my website called The Effective Admin, which is a niche site for administrative professionals. (Not trying to do any free advertising but with Administrative Professionals Day(R) coming next month I thought it would be appropriate to mention this in case anyone needs the dates, etc.)

  10. jake says:

    This is such a great list. I work for a educational instituion. A student worker that had worked with me graduated, and my deparment wanted to hire him. Our deparment was afraid that the committeee that overseas such things would say no.

    Our department is Helpdesk, and he’s done so many troubleshooting issues around the building that everyone knew him. So when it came time to ask the comittee if our department can hire him full time, everyone agreed. Some of the directors even said that they had received direct comments of how good a person he was. The result was that he was hired. Keeping in mind this was at a time when we didnt really have a position opened, but they liked him so much we ended up making a position up.

    The more your name comes up the more you’re able to have leverage when it comes to raises and moving up to a better position. I have seen this time and time again.

    One way that I got people to better know me was that I keep introducing myself, until I feel that they no longer need to know lol. This also allows them to not stumble to remember your name when you talk to them, or make them feel uncomfortable if they get your name incorrect.

  11. mary says:

    Tack is knowing how far one can go without going to far. How well am I supposed to get to know my boss and bosses boss. I feel like I’m bothering them. They don’t even really know who I am. I’m a substitute in three districts and a student teacher. I would like to get to know them better,
    I’m going to seek employment in 6 mo at a school.

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