Whether you are in the middle of a job search or think you are well positioned professionally, meetings and events that provide the opportunity to strengthen your existing relationships and expand your network belong on your weekly “to do” list.
Adam Grant, Wharton professor and author, recently wrote in the NY Times that networking is overrated. While that is a catchy headline and provides an excuse for people who are uncomfortable being “out there,” the article actually supports the notion that networking is important to do but it should be done in a strategic way that is not a waste of time. I would argue that approaching a Fortune 500 General Counsel at an event and simply handing him your card is not only a waste of time but also does not qualify as networking. Networking involves cultivating the connections you make personally and professionally so they have the potential to become actual relationships.
People are busier than ever and are constantly bombarded with information. It is up to you to put yourself on the radar and stay there. Top quality work should speak for itself but do you want to leave your future to that assumption?
Even if your work is recognized, if there is a need to downsize at your company or firm, can you count on loyalty? Can you be certain that your leaders are managing the business as they should?
The answer to each of the above questions is “no”. Therefore, you want to do everything you can to have as many options as possible when it is time to embark on a job search. Producing top quality work will provide you with the foundation you need. It is equally important to maintain and expand your relationships. This will provide you with friends, colleagues and acquaintances you can reach out to in the event you decide to seek a new challenge or if there is an issue at your company or firm that requires you to move.
Many law firms and companies routinely post their job openings and sit back to see what comes to them. The ease of submitting resumes now means there is more competition than ever. Having someone inside the organization who can make sure your resume is seen can make the difference between landing an interview and not even appearing on the radar.
For many of you, the idea of networking is not pleasant. You went to law school to be a lawyer, not to be in sales. Unfortunately, being a good lawyer is no longer enough. If you want to have some control over your career, whether you are a law student, your firm’s star associate or the General Counsel of a corporation, you need to be proactive. Schedule coffees, lunches and after work meetings to catch up with those you do not see on a regular basis or to get to know people you meet at events. Being social does not have to be distasteful. You do not have to be aggressive. Express interest in the people you meet. Ask them about what they do, draw connections to your experience and work to grow relationships organically. Developing relationships takes time. The easiest way to put in the time you need is to make it part of your regular routine.
I have, on many occasions, been surprised by which connections turn into successful business relationships. The people you are certain will come through often do not and those you dismiss as unlikely resources can turn out to be your biggest advocates or best clients. The bottom line is you will never create those unexpected relationships unless you go out and meet people.
For those of you just getting started, attend alumni events, practice area conferences, and bar association events, volunteer in your community and join organizations that interest you.
In addition to all of the above, set up a Linkedin profile. You may not be a fan of social media but using LinkedIn is a must. Everyone on the site is sharing his or her rolodex and you need to take advantage of that. Always be open to adding people to your network who you have met along the way. You never know which one is going to be the person to vouch for you or make an important connection.
No more procrastinating. Think of someone you have worked with or have met recently and reach out to schedule a meeting. Today is the day!
Questions? Need help creating a networking strategy?
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Amy Goldstein is the founder of Grayson Allen, Inc., a New York based attorney search and career consulting firm. She has been providing career advice and recruiting attorneys for in-house and law firm positions since 2000.