I know that networking is a “bad word” for some folks, even cause for anxiety.
Seeing a “networking event” on the calendar might make you sigh loudly and start looking for any excuse to get out of it. We have all had those days when it takes a ton of motivation to go to a networking event and meet new people (while the couch and the DVR are calling our name).
- But I would encourage you to change your perspective about legal networking.
Networking doesn’t have to be done at stuffy functions where everyone is wearing suits and making small talk. Networking doesn’t have to be painful or even done only in person. Networking isn’t just something to put on your to-do list; it is something that should be woven into your professional existence.
You shouldn’t have to “decide” to network. You shouldn’t have to “plan” to network. Networking instead should be just part of your daily or weekly reality.
With that in mind, we’re going to publish a series of helpful posts about networking in different contexts. Get started below, and stay tuned for the whole series!
What is “Networking” Anyway?
Networking is the act of connecting with people and an opportunity to build your community.
Now does that sound so bad? Does it sound like something that should be anxiety-inducing? It shouldn’t. It’s something we do every day!
1. Networking is the act of connecting with people
People, generally, like other people. Sure, not all people, but I am certain you have people in your life that you do like — family and friends, elective and non-elective relationships. Perhaps you consider yourself an introvert or slightly antisocial. Or maybe you think of yourself as an extrovert.
However you define yourself, for most of us, in various ways, we are social creatures. We like other people. Sure, we may not want to be around people all the time, but we like to connect with others, especially those with whom we have things in common.
- And networking enables us to connect with people with whom we have professional things in common.
Is that something to be afraid of? I don’t think so. In a way, it is somewhat exciting.
You have the opportunity to connect with people who share your professional interests. And if you have stuff in common, that typically makes it more fun to connect.
So, networking is really just making new friends, friends you may have more in common with professionally than personally.
2. Networking is an opportunity to build your community
Remember the idea that it takes a village to raise a child? Well, I would argue it takes a village to become a successful professional.
You need a community to support you, inspire you, and send you clients and business. This community helps you celebrate when you succeed, gives you feedback and advice when you hit a bump in the road, or even helps you start a new venture.
Although you will want to have a core community support group to call on when necessary, a broad, diverse professional community has benefits that you may not discover, unless you actually get those benefits.
3. Your goals should be very broad
Networking goals should be very broad and not totally results oriented. I discourage you from networking only to find a job or land a new client. The thing is you never know when networking will pay off in a tangible way.
So, just go out there and meet people and build your community. You only have something to gain. And if you are open and ready to meet people and build a network, the benefits will come, often in ways you least expect.
A Networking Story (that Resulted in this Website)
Here is a story to think about. Alison and I met on Twitter. We love talking about how we met because it is a great story of how talking to someone on Twitter literally changed our professional lives.
- Had we not connected to build our network, we would never have had coffee, become friends and collaborators, and launched three brands together (including this one).
What if either one of us had found sending direct Twitter messages too annoying or awkward? What if we had not met because we didn’t see a direct benefit to getting to know each other?
I don’t know what I would be spending my time doing (likely still teaching and tutoring) but my professional life wouldn’t be as rich or so much fun. And it was all from taking a moment or two to send a few notes and emails and have coffee.
Networking is an Opportunity!
I would encourage you to look at networking as an opportunity and not as an obligation. As an activity you do because it can be fun and interesting and can allow you to engage in your community.
Sure, business, jobs and clients, can come from networking, but if you network only to reach these goals, I think you are losing out on a lot of great opportunities.
Don’t expect immediate results from networking, but you never know when you might get a crazy benefit from it.
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And check out these other helpful posts:
- Legal Networking 101: How Do You Know What to Talk About While Networking
- Legal Networking 101: A New Definition of Networking
- Legal Networking 101: Don’t Be an A**hole
- Legal Networking 101: Networking Today Isn’t Like the Networking of Yesterday
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