Since your managers change a lot, as I said last week, who really knows if you do good work or not? Two kinds of people: your customers and your colleagues. One of our clients was asked in an interview last week, "What would your colleagues say are your greatest strengths? Your greatest weaknesses?" While that's a nasty question to ask in an interview, the emphasis on colleagues is a good one.
Good work colleagues are invaluable. They can help you learn a new job or new skill. They can help you solve problems or manage your manager. They can help out when you are stuck or cheer you up when you have lost your motivation. Now that mentoring rarely occurs any more, a group of colleagues can be a wonderful substitute. Even Kathy Kram of Boston University, the guru of mentoring, agrees.
In school and in college, rewards come to the most competitive academically. It may look like that in corporate America, especially in a career like sales, but over the long term, it's your colleagues that help you advance or find a new job or deal with a difficult manager. Earn their respect. Share what you know. Help out when someone is overwhelmed. Volunteer to lend a hand - and don't ask for credit.
If you develop a reputation for being a great colleague, you will never have to worry about not having a network to use when you are out of work!