A sense of community and belonging. It's something that we all crave—hey, it's even a level in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
But, while this concept applies everywhere, it really holds water in the workplace. After all, you spend a major chunk of your time in the office, and it's helpful to know that you have people you can lean on and socialize with.
Even further, when your professional life makes you feel vulnerable or anxious, having that tight-knit circle of colleagues can be a huge asset and confidence boost.
But, here's the thing: Finding your tribe at work isn't always easy, particularly when you're one of many employees in a huge company.
So, how can you identify and build a support system, even when you feel like you're just a number among hundreds—or even thousands—of co-workers? Here's how to put yourself out there and find your people.
1. Think Outside the Box
Within your company, there are undoubtedly people that you work with far more than others. You'll collaborate more frequently with the people in your immediate department than anybody else, for example.
But that doesn't mean that all of your close work friends need to come from that same group. There's no rule stating that your tribe needs to be built with people who do the exact same things as you.
You shouldn't hesitate to expand your horizons and think outside the box when seeking people to forge a bond with. Perhaps you and that person in the accounting department don't ever have overlapping projects—but, you don't need to have similar work in order to have similar values.
2. Join (or Start!) an Employee Resource Group
Employee Resource Groups are a great way to reach out beyond your group of immediate colleagues and find others who share your interests and passions.
If you're unfamiliar with what these are, Employee Resource Groups are employee-led and voluntary groups that aim to foster a more inclusive and collaborative company culture. USA Today Network, for example, has these groups geared toward women, young professionals, and veterans.
When you find a group that seems like a fit for you, go ahead and attend some of the meetings, discussions, and get-togethers. Not only will you be able to meet people you align with outside of your department, but you'll also contribute to bettering your workplace.
If your company doesn't currently have any groups for you to join? Well, come up with one you think would be helpful, then run that idea up the flagpole to see if you can get it started.
3. Work on Cross-Departmental Projects
Another great way to reach out and meet new co-workers is to volunteer to work on cross-departmental initiatives.
Whether it's a large project that requires the expertise of numerous departments, or it's something more casual—like helping to plan your company's anniversary party, for example—engaging in these sorts of opportunities offers numerous benefits.
By stepping up to the plate, you'll be able to expand your web of connections in the office, while also challenging yourself to learn more about how other teams work.
4. Sit With Someone New
You sit at the same table with the very same people for lunch every day (or, you just chow down on that sandwich alone at your desk!). When you head out for a company happy hour, you head straight to the corner where your cube-mates are hanging out.
Sure, that's easy and comforting. But, if your goal is to find new friends and build your tribe, socializing with the same people day in and day out is opposite of what you should be doing.
Instead, ask someone new (perhaps somebody you met in an Employee Resource Group or while working on that cross-departmental project!) to grab lunch with you. Or, when you arrive at that office happy hour, introduce yourself to somebody you don't already know.
It seems like a relatively small change. But, forcing yourself out of your comfort zone can make a huge impact on how connected you feel in the office.
5. Share About Your Personal Life
Years ago, it was common advice that you shouldn't share too much about your personal life at the office. But, times have changed.
While you still shouldn't share the gory details of all of your problems, there is a lot to be said for opening up about your passions and hobbies outside of work.
Doing so will help you find people that share those same interests—giving you something else to connect on, aside from the fact that you earn your paycheck from the same place.
So, don't think that age-old advice means that you need to keep every single conversation work-related. Sharing more about your whole, authentic self can be a great way to connect on a deeper level with people in the office.
When you implement these tips and find your tribe at work? Don't fall into the trap of thinking that this equates to being an exclusive clique.
Invite other people in, and soon you'll have a large group of close colleagues, which will help you to feel that much more connected in the office.
After all, when it comes to friends at work, this old sentiment holds true: The more, the merrier!