The other day I posted, “A friend is someone you can talk to.” and “A colleague is someone you can go to.” As the comments and the “Likes” followed I realized something special about the term colleague, especially as it relates to this industry – I am the only one that can label a person a colleague. And the standards of being a colleague of mine are based on the professional and ethical standards I have for myself. I further posted that I have colleagues that have evolved into friends but rarely has a friend evolved into a colleague. I wouldn’t want to jeopardize our friendship with the high standards I have for a colleague. That line is tough to cross without issues.
When it comes to the word friend, I clearly make a distinction between it and an associate. Friends are for a lifetime and associates come and go. With a true friend you are not willing to sacrifice that bond by placing them in a no win situation. That is why I have never recruited nor will I, any friend into this industry. In fact, I have had friends that have been interested and I was truthful with them in saying, “It’s not for you.” A friend will respect [or should] your call on that.
A colleague, on the other hand, is someone that meets a standard you have set as a “go to” person in this industry. They don’t have to necessarily be an expert per se, but they have a set of skills and/or abilities that can elevate your position or fill a gap where you are deficient. Many colleagues can and often will evolve into a friendship bond. It also seems that the evolution of colleague to friend can occur faster than a basic friendship does amongst social associates. I believe this is part in parcel due to commonality and seriousness of the craft. It is likened to a group of men that arrive at basic training, who have never known each other prior to the bus dropping them off and after a period of bonding through some adversity, many of them are friends for life.
The term colleague is often associated amongst peer groups through some level of professional relationship. For instance a specialist will refer to another specialist as a colleague. Experts will refer to other experts as colleagues as well as leaders will refer to other leaders as a colleague as well. Experts and leaders often are referred to as colleague in both groups, however the highest regard is when an expert or leader refers to a specialist as a colleague. In my definiton of the 3 groups in the industry, the apprentice group would rarely refer to each other as a colleague. Most of their motivations are not contingent upon any bond. It’s like referring to crabs in a barrel as colleagues. The colleague reference would start in the journeymen category because they are plugging away at breaking the code in the craft and are networking [at least should be] with others to elevate their skills [not hard skills].
Before you hit the red “X” in the upper right corner to close out this blog ask yourself this: Who are your colleagues and how and when did you foster them? A person can be considered a colleague before they are tested under fire or worked side by side in an austere environment [although that does help] I have never met Benjamin Alozie, yet I have corresponded with him on several occasions. I am comfortable at referring to him as a colleague. This is not a groupon title, where there are colleague giveaways. The title is earned and the person being referred to as a colleague often does not know you feel that way about them. As odd as it seems I have established colleagues through social media.