If you want to see where you career is going, look at who you hang out with at work.
Is it the guy who plays on his phone during meetings? Is it the woman who is short-tempered and can be snarky to the intern?
There's an old proverb that says you are known by the company you keep. (Your Mom probably quoted it to you once a day when you were a teenager.) While you don't want to isolate yourself at work or avoid having a diverse group of contacts, you do want to consider what you're getting from those relationships.
For example, you may think the guy who plays on his phone during meetings is also pretty funny. You like going to lunch with him and watching him do impersonations of various people in the office. Or, the woman who is snarky to interns usually isn't rude to you, so you don't have a problem hanging out with her for a drink after work.
But how do you really feel about interacting all the time with such colleagues? Do you find yourself thinking up new ideas, wanting to try and match their passion for their work or appreciate learning something new from them? Or, are you becoming caught in their endless cycle of disengagement, snarkiness and laziness?
I'm not suggesting you cut these people completely. What I am suggesting is that you need to assess whether such relationships inspire you or provide encouragement. If not, it's time to spend less time with them and instead look for colleagues who can help you develop professionally because they model the right behavior.
Look for people who are:
- Curious. These colleagues are intrigued by information. They read widely -- they may be able to tell you 10 facts about lemurs or discuss the latest industry acquisition. When you interact with those who are always expanding their minds, you will start to do the same -- and that's always a plus for any career.
- Good listeners. The colleagues who put their phones away during a meeting, turn away from their computers when your're talking to them and let others complete their sentences without interrupting are the kind of co-workers who go far in their careers. They're seen as great negotiators, leaders and team members and have the kind of skills you should emulate.
- Are not perfect. You want to be around people who are not afraid -- or too pompous -- to admit when they make a mistake. These are the kind of colleagues who learn from their goofs and become even better in their jobs. They don't become focused on fixing the blame, and instead want to fix the problem. You will learn a lot from such team members and you career will benefit from learning how they move on from mistakes and thrive.