Career & Jobs

How To Build—And Retain—The Most Important Thing In Your Career

If you’re eager to progress in your career, you’ve probably spent years honing your craft, dedicating yourself to countless hours of professional development, networking events, and gaining valuable on-the-job experience.

But in your quest for professional success, you might be overlooking the most important thing that takes time to build yet can be lost in an instant: trust.

Trust is the basis of all successful relationships. And ultimately, in business (and life), cultivating relationships is how you’ll excel.

Trust completes the “know, like, trust” trifecta that’s essential in career progress. Without trust, you’ll come up short. Think about it: you can know someone (but dislike them), you can like someone (but not want to associate with them), but we do business with those we trust.

Here’s how to build and keep the trust you earn:

Use your eyes and ears more than your mouth

We all know that one person who talks incessantly about themselves and never bothers to ask about others or whose eyes never leave their phone screen during a conversation. Don’t be that person.

The most trusted people go out of their way to listen more than they speak, which improves relationships and communication. They also look people in the eye during conversations. When you stop multitasking, you’re free to look up from your phone and home in on those with you to listen actively. People feel valued when they are heard, which fosters feelings of trust and respect. In return, when you maintain eye contact and give someone your full, undivided attention, they’ll feel “seen” and validated.

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The best way to use your mouth? Smile more. Research shows that smiling puts others at ease, draws others to you, and inspires confidence and trust.

Serve, don’t sell

We’re instantly suspicious of those who lead with a hard sell, which builds a barrier to trust. Instead of pitching someone immediately after your meet, aim to serve, not sell. Ask how you can help them, and be proactive in connecting them with the people and resources they need.

When you value relationships over transactions, you play the long game. By putting others first and adopting a service mindset, you’ll improve your communication and connection, establish trust, deepen relationships, and build business.

Freely share your wisdom

Gaining trust also means inviting people into your world. Allow people to get to know you and what matters most by sharing your insights and experiences. And not just around the “wins”—sharing the times when things didn’t go as planned and the lessons you learned as part of those “failures” will endear you to others as a straight-shooter.

When you do this regularly, those most important to you will look to you as an emotionally intelligent guidepost, a trusted thought leader who strives to serve others by communicating the lessons they’ve learned in an engaging and compelling way.

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Embrace empathy

Demonstrating empathy shows that you care enough to place yourself in someone else’s shoes and see things from their perspective. This means you’ll better understand your customers, colleagues, and partners and then be able to use those insights in ways to better serve and communicate with them, building a foundation of trust.

Do what you say and say what you do

As anyone who’s ever been disappointed by someone who didn’t deliver can tell you, not everyone walks the talk. Ambiguity erodes trust; not following through or honoring your word kills it.

Clarity is crucial for effective communication, yet even when we think we’re clear, our incongruent actions can suggest otherwise. This leaves others confused. And when you confuse people, you’ll lose people—and their trust.

When you do what you say and say what you do, aligning your word and actions, you’ll come to be known as someone with integrity who’s reliable and dependable, building trust and confidence.

Make kindness and respect your default

In a world where you can be anything, be kind and respectful—especially if you hope to earn someone’s trust. As thought leader Seth Godin has noted, we’re living in a time where people know their attention is precious and their trust has been abused. “If someone shows up and treats your attention with kindness and earns your trust every day,” says Godin, “well, then one of the byproducts will be that they’ll want to hear what you have to say next.”

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