One of the most important lessons we learn at the start of our careers is how important relationships are to our career development. Job opportunities are often referred to us by our friends or those in our professional network. Promotions are also a result of our likeability and ability to work with others.

Our network becomes our net worth. But not all relationships are the same. You must nurture each one differently. Read on to discover the 5 types of workplace relationships you must have and how to operate them.

1. Mentor Relationships

Most successful people had a mentor that guided them through the early stages of their career and their early adulthood. For instance, Oprah Winfrey credits her relationship with Maya Angelou for a lot of her success. Bill Gates also credits his huge success to his mentor, Warren Buffet.

Mentors are usually older and wiser role models that have achieved the kinds of success we desire. In some cases, a mentor may be younger than us but have greater professional experience that we can learn from. Having a mentor helps us to cut down the time it takes to learn their desirable skills while saving us from costly mistakes that they made on their journey.

Mentors can also be a great resource whenever you feel discouraged or experiencing imposter syndrome. They have often been through some hard times too and can help guide you on the decisions you may need to make to get back on track. It isn’t easy to find the right mentorship relationship.

Some people are lucky enough to meet a mentor that takes a liking to them and decides to take them on as a mentee. But many of us must seek out the right mentors and ask for their help and guidance.

At your workplace, think of the people that you admire and would like to emulate. Once you have identified the person, email them and express your interest in having a short meeting with them to discuss their career success and how they got to their level. During your conversation, find out if there are any areas whereby you could be of help to the potential mentor.

Perhaps the individual needs an assistant to help with a project they are working on. Volunteering to help them will give you access to them and open the way for a potential mentor relationship. Once you have connected with a mentor, be sure to stay in touch with them and try meeting them over a meal, coffee, or drink at least once a month.

2. Mentee Relationships

As you develop your mentor relationships, don’t forget to give back by becoming someone else’s mentee. While you look up to others, others are looking up to you. Maybe there are some interns or entry-level managers that have impressed you. Acting as their mentor will not only help their career trajectory but help cement in you any lessons that you have learned in your career.

3. Sponsor Relationship

Another important workplace relationship every career person must have is a sponsor relationship. Sponsors are people in positions of influence that can help advance your career by backing you for promotions or job opportunities. For instance, it could be a senior director that suggests your name when a lucrative training opportunity comes up.

Reports show that a quarter of white males have sponsor relationships whereas only 1/8th of women and 1/20th of minorities have them. Without a sponsor, it is extremely difficult to rise to the highest levels of your professional career.

So how can you get a sponsor? You must be excellent at your work and very visible. Someone that decides to recommend you for an opportunity must be sure that you won’t embarrass them by failing to deliver.

Many of us are diligent at our work but no one knows we exist. To correct this, we need to promote ourselves by showing up at work events and functions, volunteering for visible positions, and ensuring we get credit for any good work done. You may also need to be bold and introduce yourself to potential sponsors whenever there is an appropriate opportunity to do so.

4. Supportive Peer Relationships

Peers are other employees that are at the same level of their careers as you are who you can build mutually beneficial partnerships with. For instance, if you are a supervisor at your company, peers would be the other supervisors. They can act as a sounding board when you need to make a big decision. They can also connect you to people in their network that could help you grow your career.

In case you are overloaded with work, a supportive peer could assist you to complete your projects in time. Try to develop supportive relationships with your peers as they can make your work difficult if they dislike you. Suggest that your company offers in-person or virtual teambuilding opportunities to help grow your peer relationships.

Also, try to be helpful and supportive to your colleagues. Voice your support for their ideas in meetings and give them credit when they help you deliver at work.

5. Competitive Peer Relationships

While it is great to have supportive peers at work, you also need a bit of competition to inspire your best self. Bill Gates and Microsoft wouldn’t be as great as they are if Steve Jobs and Apple didn’t force them to bring their A-game. At the workplace, you also need peers that are constantly overdelivering to inspire you to do the same.

Competitive relationships don’t have to create hostile employee behavior. You can admire someone and learn from them without the need to put them down.

Start Building Different Types of Workplace Relationships

Improving relationships at work is key if we want to grow our careers and increase our job satisfaction. The types of interactions we have in the course of our career can also greatly affect our job satisfaction and professional reputation.

While many work relationships occur organically, it’s important to consciously create all the interactions we need to advance our careers. For more information on how to improve your work relationships, check out the rest of our blog.