Friendship and Career Transitions

“Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.” ~ Khalil Gibran

Friendships, like all relationships, are more vulnerable at some points than others. Our work life is one of those things that can pose challenges to our connections with our friends. From the moment we finish school to begin working until the time we decide to end our careers to retire, our work can present challenges as well as opportunities for our friendships. Going through career transitions, being promoted, demoted, let go or moving away for a job are only some ways that our work can impact our friendships.

Consider whether you’ve experienced these work issues with your friends and which were the most challenging for your friendships:

  • Having different core values towards work, different levels of ambition and/or different definitions of success,
  • Making different decisions about starting a family for example, one friend eases up on work to focus on children and parenting and the other friend focuses only on career growth,
  • Spending long hours at work, your job or business which means less free time to spend with friends and having to choose which friends you want to be with during your free time,
  • Having a job that requires travel or a move abroad and the impact of the distance on your friendships,
  • Being able (or unable) to celebrate each others successes such as promotions, landing a new job, a salary increase or bonus, new roles or responsibilities,
  • Struggling with being there and with knowing what to say when you or your friend are fired, demoted, lose a contract, lose a valued role, or decide to retire,
  • Experiencing differences or a change in income levels, different ways of relating to money or different choices about how to spend money.

Each of these work-related changes and transitions have the capacity to be points of friction in our friendships. These points of friction are wonderful opportunities to discover where there is vulnerability and strength in our connections with our friends. They are also wonderful opportunities to deepen our friendships, develop our listening and communication skills, have “hard” conversations, and practice being authentic and empathic.

If you are the one going through the work change or transition, consider the impact on your friend(s) and friendship(s). You have the choice to take responsibility for helping your friendship during this transition. Plan on having a conversation or taking some action that will keep your friendship intact and even strengthen it through the change or transition. Your friend may not know what to say, what to do or how to acknowledge the career or work change you are experiencing. Telling them and letting them know is is one way you can demonstrate to your friend that your friendship is important to you.

Consider how you feel about a friend’s work change or transition. Jealousy, envy, confusion, fear, sadness, and ambivalence are just some emotions we can feel when our friends go through their career transitions. Becoming aware of how you feel and acknowledging it to yourself, or better yet to your friend, can go a long way to strengthening your friendship.

Listen, listen and listen. Listen to your friend and be understanding of what your friend is saying. Also, listen to yourself and notice what you are sensing, intuiting, and experiencing in yourself during your friend’s career or work transition. You might realize something important about yourself in the process.

Show caring and respect for your friend and friendship during their career change. Making time for your friend when she or he is going through a work transition is a gift in and of itself. Checking in with how they are doing or inviting your friend to get together are some ways to show you value them and want to be there.

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.” Muhammad Ali

Copyrighted 2013 – The Smart Art of Friendship

Ruth Tamari and Amy Greenleaf Brassert

The Smart Art of Friendship: 4 Tips to Help Your Friendships During Transitions

“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.” ~ Dinah Craik

Friendships are great for our health, if those friendships themselves are healthy and growing.  For this reason, being at choice and intentional about your friendships, especially during life’s transitions, is important.

We need friends as we go through transitions: for support, for relaxation, to listen, to encourage, to ground and center, and to feel loved. And there are times in our lives when our friendships are more vulnerable; when we experience challenges, stressors and events that impact our friendships.

This is different from the natural stages of transition in any friendship which will be addressed in an upcoming post.

You may have already noticed or experienced how transitions can be challenging to your friendship(s).  Here are different types of transitions that are often stressors on friendship:

  • Career transitions – career advancement, job loss, career change, retirement
  • Money transitions  – different attitudes towards money, sudden changes in financial status, differences in spending habits/choices
  • Health transitions – health diagnosis, health lifestyle choices, mental health, addictions
  • Relationship transitions – becoming coupled, single, widowed, re-coupling
  • Family transitions – becoming pregnant, becoming (step)parent, being child-free
  • Residential transitions – relocating or moving, downsizing, upsizing, moving to assisted living
  • Spiritual transitions – changes in core personal values, interests, or pursuits

When navigating any transition, be mindful and respectful of how each friend deals with change, transition and opportunities. Each of us approaches change differently and has different needs and ways of being during transitions. It’s helpful to notice what a friend is asking for, for example, listening, problem-solving, support, helping do research, distraction or play.

There are subtle differences in what different friends can offer us during transitions e.g. encouragement, a sounding board, relaxation, care and affection, honesty and straight-shooting, or space to be ourselves. This makes it critical to know what skills, strengths and abilities we have and are willing to offer during a transition. And what we can’t offer.

Making a request for help or support takes courage. Equally, it takes courage to consider the request and be honest with ourselves about whether we can fulfill the request or not.

Four Tips for the Care and Growth of Your Friendships During Transitions:

1.  Prepare yourself for the impact of transitions. Become aware of how transitions can be stressful on friendship. This is deeply personal so we need to pay attention to how we go through transitions and share that with your friends.
2.  Face the “it” in your friendship. Make a decision about whether and/or how to have a conversation about “it”. Consider the impact on you and your friendship of having/not having that conversation.
3.  Be clear about your needs and your boundaries. Know your deal-breakers, your must-have’s and where you draw the line.
4.  Respect your differences. We all have different ways of approaching change, opportunities, growth and challenges.

Here are some thoughts to ponder:  What’s your finest quality as a friend? What qualities are you most grateful for in your friends?  What do your friends value about you?   What’s one friendship quality or skill you would like to explore, strengthen or develop in yourself?

Copyrighted 2013 – The Smart Art of Friendship- Ruth Tamari and Amy Greenleaf Brassert