THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Make new friends: Choose workplace for connections

Here's some advice for those of you who don't like your job: maybe the job is not your problem. Maybe it's that you're not trying hard enough to make friends at work.

People with one friend at work are much more likely to find their work interesting. And people with at least three close friends at work are 96 percent more likely to be extremely satisfied with their life.

These are some of the findings Tom Rath reports in his new book, Vital Friends: The People You Can't Afford to Live Without. A longtime Gallup Organization employee who leads its workplace and leadership consulting worldwide, Rath draws on more than five million interviews conducted by the research and polling organization.

Rath says a friend who can change your work environment is "someone you spend a lot of time in a relationship with. And you are probably making a difference in that person's life, too. If the person were gone, work would be less fun."

Rath has identified eight different friendship roles. No single person can be all these roles at once, and the fatal flaw people make in relationships is asking that of one person– often a boss or a spouse.

A navigator, for example, is someone who is like a mentor. You don't need to have regular conversations with the person, but when you do, they are very meaningful in your life. A connector is the type of friend made famous by Malcolm Gladwell, in The Tipping Point, for being able to give you a network. And a champion is the type of friend who thrives on your accomplishments and happiness.

The threshold for gaining the benefits of health and life satisfaction from friendship is three or four friends. Here are some steps to make those friends:

1. Identify someone appropriate. "When I was in human resources, I had a lot of confidential information, so it was no surprise that I became friends with the executive assistant for the CEO, who also had a lot of confidential information," says Heather Mundell, career coach and author of the Dream Big blog.

2. Be open. On the Internet, where ranting is de rigeur, it would seem that half of all workers are surrounded by idiots. This way of thinking will not find you friends. "We like to think we can size someone up in 10 seconds. But often our opinions of people change over time," says Mundell.

3. Make time for face-to-face contact. "If someone stops by your cube and says,'Do you have few minutes?' it's nice if you do. Be a good listener," says Mundell. "Over time, problem solving together and venting will lead to building trust. You should stop by peoples' cubes and shoot the breeze, too."

4. Choose your surroundings carefully. Find an office that encourages friendships– the structure of workspaces, the quality of common areas, the size of the well-stocked fridge– all these factors can contribute to making an office full of friendships. Rath found that you are three times more likely to have a close-knit workgroup if the physical environment makes it easy to socialize.

5. Shift your focus away from yourself. "People spend so much time trying to manage themselves," says Rath. Formal education focuses on mastery of topic areas, and graduate school allows you to focus on your own interests. But "when it comes to improving our lives," writes Rath, "it's the energy between two people that makes a difference."

This is going to be a big change for most people. Most workers do not make friends at work. But without a best friend at work, the chances of being engaged in your job are slim. So maybe you should put aside advice about finding the perfect job by searching want ads for your calling. Instead, look for a job and an office that facilitates your new calling: friendship.