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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

The 7 People You Should Befriend at Work

When you don’t quite know your way around the office—or heck, even if you do—it’s good to know people in high places.

But by “high places,” I don’t necessarily mean the executive suite. While buddying up with the CEO probably wouldn’t hurt, there are a few other well-known office archetypes who can really help you out.

So, when you’re kicking off a new job, seek out these seven officemates—stat.

1. The Human Snack Machine

You know the feeling: It’s 3 PM, you’re starting to get the “maybe that rice cake wasn’t enough for lunch” shakes (or the “a client just yelled at me for 20 minutes straight” need for stress-relieving indulgence), and you’re a quarter short for anything in the snack machine.

This is precisely when it pays to know that guy in the marketing department who keeps a drawer full of candy—and is willing to share in exchange for a few minutes of office chit-chat. (Just make sure to occasionally offer treats in return or contribute to the snack fund!)

2. The Socialite

If you’re not actively filling the role of Happy Hour Coordinator Extraordinaire, you should befriend whoever is—and quick. At least, you should if you want to be in the loop about co-worker get-togethers, informal company sports leagues, and summer BBQs.

Besides the obvious fact that this will help you make new pals, you’ll also get to know people in other departments—so when you need help with marketing an upcoming event or hiring a new employee, you’ll know exactly who to ask.


3. Your Personal IT Guru

When Monday morning brings a much-too-early alarm and an accidentally decaf pot of coffee, the last thing you want to face is the blue screen of death on your monitor. Sure, you could put in an IT ticket, but you’ll be forced to wait for a response—helpless—while the minutes tick away and your work continues to pile up.

Or, you could get to know someone a few cubes over who can help you out in a crunch—like when you have a report due and your computer won’t turn on or you can’t figure out how to adjust your margins without destroying your formatting. With some quick handiwork from a techy colleague, you’ll be good to go.

4. The Older Sibling

Mentors are great when you need important advice about your professional development. But an older work sibling can really help you out when it comes to your less serious career quandaries. Think: “I really want to get involved in the new product launch, but I’m not sure how—what should I do?” Or even, “You’ve been to the company holiday party a few times—what in the world am I supposed to wear?”

Typically, this person is a little higher up, has been with the company a bit longer, and, well, just generally knows more than you. (Hey, I never said the older sibling is never slightly obnoxious.)

5. The Selfless Volunteer

It’s Friday afternoon at 4:30 PM, and you’re working on a project with a strict 5 PM deadline. And let’s just say—things are not looking good.

Enter: the dependable volunteer—the person who seems to pop out of nowhere asking if you need help. Even when he was planning on heading out of the office at 4:45 PM (oh, summer Fridays!), he’ll hunker down and help you meet that deadline. Best of all, he won’t hold it over your head the next time he needs a favor. (But yes, you should help him out anyway!)

6. The Encourager

Most offices have an ample supply of pessimists—the co-workers who tell you why ideas won’t work, swear that you’ll never get a raise, and find a hole in any suggestion you make.

Then—every once in a while—you’ll come across someone who always manages to put a positive spin on things. Even if your idea for a Sriracha-and-gummy-bear-flavored cupcake for your office cook-off isn’t the best idea you’ve ever had, she’ll be sure to let you—and the team—know that by experimenting with unique flavors, you’re definitely headed in the right direction.

And when you find that optimist—hold onto her! There’s nothing better than having a constant source of encouragement.

7. The Helpless Newbie

While it’s nice to be on the receiving end of all these benefits, it’s also good to step out of your way to help out someone less experienced. Spot a newbie who isn’t sure which printer to use? See someone wandering the halls, aimlessly looking for office #702?

By adopting a less-experienced co-worker, you’ll boost your leadership abilities and have the chance to become a kick-ass mentor. (And he or she might just turn out to be one of the above six must-have colleagues!)

Who'd we miss? Any other officemates everyone should have?

Photo of co-workers talking courtesy of Shutterstock.