How to Effectively Collaborate With Tenured Professionals

Group of coworkers sitting around table in collaboration

Have you ever been too intimidated to speak up or challenge a tenured professional at work? Many people who are in the early stages of their career might feel uncomfortable around others who have 10, 20, or 30+ years of experience. As a result, some life science professionals avoid asking for help or support out of fear of harsh judgment from more established colleagues. They don’t want others to make negative assumptions about their knowledge, intellect, or skill levels. To top it off, more miscommunication can come from generational differences that exist between co-workers of different ages.

Understanding how to collaborate with established colleagues is an important skill that can help you achieve more of your career goals, which can lead to being promoted and earning raises. Even the most experienced professional now was once a beginner, who had to learn and grow in their field. They had to spend the time necessary to develop in their industry and perhaps worked with a mentor. Here are some ways you can effectively collaborate with tenured professionals.

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Acknowledge their experience

When someone is established in their field, they’ve probably tried many things and have a history of successes and disappointments. This information is priceless and letting them know you value their experience can set the tone for a productive relationship. Some early and mid-career professionals lack the wisdom necessary to accomplish their goals, while discounting the wisdom of others. Acknowledging the experience of a tenured professional can be done in a variety of ways. You could simply state something about how fortunate you (and your department) are to have them on your team, invite them out for lunch to get their insight, or ask for their advice/thoughts on a major issue you’re having.

Find out what their expertise is

After developing a rapport with an established co-worker, it’s a good idea to find out more about their subject matter expertise. What is their favorite part of their job? Which area of their field do they find the most interesting? What have they done outside of work to develop that interest? Do they attend conferences or other events to learn more about their industry? Once you are aware of their expertise, you can ask for additional insight or suggestions in that area. Most people love to discuss their interests, so this also goes a long way in cultivating the relationship.

Always be prepared

One of the fastest ways to gain a negative reputation or not be taken seriously is to show up unprepared. When you are working on a project or assignment with a tenured professional, make sure you are prepared. Do your research on topics, competitors, and alternative solutions before attending group meetings. Therefore, you can share details that haven’t been discussed. This positions you as a key contributor, which established colleagues tend to notice. Tenured professionals are more inclined to collaborate with others who can bring something new to the table, and help them look good in the process.

Propose well-thought-out ideas and solutions

Another belief about individuals with less experience is that they don’t really understand all that is involved in making strategic choices or major initiatives for the organization. When professionals bring up ideas that are not feasible or realistic, it highlights their inexperience. If you’re working with a tenured professional, only propose ideas or solutions that you have scrutinized. Analyze your suggestions from different angles and try to think about any objections someone could have. You could also run your thoughts by another trusted colleague for feedback, before mentioning it to a larger group.

Many life science professionals have some anxiety or intimidation that comes up when they think about working with tenured professionals. Having productive relationships with established colleagues can help put your career on the fast track to advancement. When collaborating with a tenured professional, acknowledge their experience. They have worked hard in their field and the fact that you mention their background sets the tone for a positive relationship. Next, discover what their true expertise is. Whenever you are meeting with an established co-worker, always be prepared and propose well-thought-out ideas. What can you do to improve your collaboration with tenured professionals?

Porschia Parker is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.

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