Have you ever been at a job where you mostly work alone on a day to day basis and when you see other employees there’s usually a quick moment of acknowledgement such as “how’s it going?” or “good morning” or “have a good weekend”? If that is the extent of the conversations, then people may remember your face later on, but they more than likely could not speak very highly of you to someone else if an opportunity for that were to present itself.
Now why might you want someone to speak highly of you in your absence? Maybe an employee knows someone who is hiring for a position that you have expertise in, but you have not heard of the opportunity. Maybe it’s a superior of yours that is being promoted and you want your name to be the first name they think of when considering their successor.
So how do you change the perception of others you work around so that they speak positively about you when you’re not around?
First, you have to show them that you care about them as an individual and not just because you think they can do something for you in the future. This could include asking them about something other than work. For instance, if they wear a wedding ring, ask them how their family is. If you like sports and they happen to wear the logo of a particular sports team, ask them about how their team is doing this season. If you are interested in fashion and one day they wear something you like, spark a small conversation about where they might have purchased a specific article of clothing. If you are really interested in being proactive with this, then maybe you could casually walk past their desk/office/workspace and ask for their opinion about a topic that you’re interested in. The possibilities here are endless, but you have to start somewhere.
Second, you have to actually care about their responses and listen attentively because you will need to be able to respond appropriately when they finish speaking. Most people can tell when a conversation is superficial in nature and the other person actually wants something, but decided to start a conversation with small talk just to break the ice (I know I can tell).
Third, don’t be afraid to open up a little about yourself. You don’t have to go into your whole life background, but something small that may let the other person feel as though they are connecting with you should be enough. The phrase “something small” could include your favorite sports team, a book you read recently, a hobby outside of work, favorite musical groups/artist, something about your family or other friends - something that brings about a sense of commonality between you and the other person. After all, the sharing of information is really a key to building meaningful relationships. If an employer or other employee feels as though you are a meaningful relationship in their life, then they may be more inclined to help you when that opportunity arises and becomes relevant.
Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone a little. It could really pay off in the long run.