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Why you should spend time with older colleagues outside of work

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If you want to know who you’ll be in a few years, you might get a preview by observing your older colleagues.

Apart from sprouting grey hair (kidding!), there’s a good chance that, like them, you’ll acquire more responsibilities, and not just at work. You might start dating someone seriously or get married, maybe even have kids, rise through the ranks, move abroad for a job, take a sabbatical—or perhaps, none of those things. But by studying your older co-workers, you can decide whether their career choices and accompanying lifestyles will suit you someday.

So it’s worth getting beyond office banter to cultivate deeper relationships—not only with peers in your age group. In particular, colleagues who are five to ten years older than you can provide insight as you design the next chapter of your life. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to know about their real concerns, their work challenges, and family frustrations.

Questions over coffee or chatting for a few extra minutes at the end of a video call about a work project can be helpful in establishing relationships with colleague. But an office retreat or off-site gathering can be especially revealing. The change of scenery puts people at ease, giving them more license to discuss their triumphs and complaints. Like a university orientation, it also supercharges the getting-to-know-you process.

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