As law students are starting back to school this week, many of you are beginning to think about the ever-important job hunt. But besides that, I encourage you to start thinking about your network and meeting new people. Because—you never know where some of those relationships may lead you in your professional life.
I was having lunch with a new friend over the holiday break. She also works in the bar exam realm. Did we meet at some official gathering or through a formal introduction? Nope, we met on Twitter. (And so did Alison and I, if you haven’t heard the story.)
We were talking about careers and getting ahead in business and in the legal profession. And the one thing we kept coming back to was that you must say “yes” to every invitation.
Say “yes” to every invitation.
Now, this may sound silly, but it really is just that simple. We were discussing some of the meaningful business relationships that we both had made by just saying yes to an invitation. Someone invites you to an event or, as she did with me, invites you to lunch. If this happens and it is possible to go, you must say yes. It isn’t that every experience will be guaranteed to turn into something more, but if you don’t go, you may be missing out on something.
I would like to take an example from my personal life to drive home the point even more. I met my husband almost six years ago. When he called to ask me out for the first time, I almost said no. I was kind of tired of dating (the last guy I had been seeing wasn’t exactly a winner) and I was going to take a break. But I said to myself, “Fine. I will go out with this one more guy and then take a break.” And good thing I did. How would my life have been different if I hadn’t said yes?
Another example for you. When I was working at my law firm, my mentor invited me to a charity benefit for an organization (she was on its board of directors). The firm had bought a table, and one of the seats was available. “Sure,” I said. That breakfast introduced me to GirlVentures, an organization that I have been volunteering for over the last four years (I am now president of its board). So, what would have happened if I had said no to that invitation?
This is how life works. You have to put yourself out there to make yourself available for good things to happen. And as the economy and job market continue to be rocky, relationships are more important than ever. So if your mentor at your job invites you to a lunch, you should go. If a friend asks you to go to a bar association event with her, you should go. You just don’t know when you will meet someone who may become an ally, a friend, or even a great business connection.
In addition to saying yes, also invite someone out for coffee.
Now it is great to be the person on the receiving end of invitations. But sometimes, you have to give someone else the opportunity to say yes.
This takes initiative and it can make you feel nervous. But you need to throw yourself out there. You need to try to meet people you find interesting or whom you think you can learn from. Alison and I frequently say that we will chat with or have coffee with almost anyone who wants to meet with us, because, well, why not? You never know if meeting someone new can turn into something great.
And if it turns out that someone doesn’t get back to you or says no, it is not your loss. Just try, try again.
One final thought: If someone does an introduction for you, you must follow up.
I need to share this one pet peeve about helping law students. Sometimes a law student will ask if I know so-and-so or if I know someone who practices in a certain field of law. If I do, I connect them, typically by e-mailing my connection to expect to hear from the student.
But, sometimes, a student doesn’t follow up. Why? I don’t know. Maybe he or she got too busy or was just nervous. But the next time the student asks for networking help, I may not be so inclined to provide it, because it makes me look bad when someone doesn’t follow up. So send an e-mail. It takes just a few moments. But don’t burn a bridge with someone who is willing to help you network. Take advantage of every opportunity. You will be glad you did.
Have you had any great successes in networking by saying yes to an invitation?
Image by Lee Burgess.
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