Networking – do you set yourself up for failure? Do you tell yourself any of these things?
This post goes a little hand in hand with my post yesterday about networking. Everyone knows they should be networking, whether you are in the job market or not, networking can be critical. There are all kinds of purposes to networking, but the real goal should be to build long-term relationships. If you go to a networking event hoping to score a job, you are probably going about it all wrong. Even if you are unemployed and desperate to get hired, that can’t be your main focus. Your main focus needs to be meeting people, connecting with people, seeing how YOU can help them, all in turn will help you. You may think that there isn’t a way you can HELP a group of attorneys, but you might be surprised.
A lot of people are uncomfortable going to networking events and striking up conversations with total strangers. Here’s a confession – I’m one of those people. Sure, you might be the chatterbox of the family when you’re having Christmas dinner at mom’s house or there might never be a dry eye in the room when you are telling a real back slapper of a joke… but how about in a room full of attorneys who you have probably never met before? There are lots of reasons that people don’t work on their network… Perhaps you’ve told yourself that an attorneys time is more important than your time… or that attorneys aren’t your peers and won’t want to socialize or be friends with you. Maybe you think that YOU don’t want to be friends with attorneys. You see enough of them at the office, who wants to socialize with them off the clock, right? WRONG! Maybe you think you aren’t interesting enough or won’t be able to add any value to the conversations, or perhaps you think you’ll just be too nervous and make a fool of yourself. These are all completely normal thoughts that a LOT of people have. Myself included.
I attended my first networking event in 2009. Would you be surprised to know I was, and still usually am, terrified? There is a part of me that says, these are attorneys, what are you doing here? There is also a part of me that says I should stop embarrassing myself and just go home. But there is a bigger part of myself that says I am successful in my career… I will continue to be successful in my career… I will set myself up for SUCCESS…. I will not sit back and expect success to fall into my lap… I will be proactive and not reactive… Remember, attorneys are people… attorneys have the same hobbies, same interests, same dislikes… as “regular” people… and guess what? Attorneys have the same doubts, the same insecurity issues, the same self-awareness as all of us… Sure, some attorneys might be more used to speaking in front of a group of people because they have to appear in court… in law school they probably had their share of embarrassment and having to get up in front of people and make arguments they weren’t sure about… I bet some of them were laughed at and felt stupid… I think part of the intimidation that comes from attending a networking event for the first time is that everyone seems to know each other, everyone is scattered around in little groups chatting and having a nice time, and there doesn’t seem to be a place for a stranger… well that isn’t because you aren’t an attorney, it’s because it’s your first time and no one knows you yet… Many of these attorneys attend events a monthly basis and see the same people… maybe they also work together or are on committees with each other etc…. so of course they are chatting it up like old friends… that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for new friends…
So, of course “networking” is like a hot topic all the time… you need networking for many things… if you are unemployed or underemployed, a strong network may help you find that perfect position… but what about people who are happily employed? Well, sooner or later you might not be so happily employed. Think it can’t happen to you? It happens every day for a dozen different reasons. Even if it never happens, why take the risk of being on your own when something goes wrong? But there are many other benefits to networking… Networking can help you get fresh ideas and a new perspective on issues, it can help you build your reputation as a knowledgeable, reliable and supportive individual, it can help you exchange practice knowledge tips and give you broader access to new and valuable information. Networking can open doors for new opportunities – this doesn’t mean job opportunities, think of all of the other opportunities that are out there… perhaps you are interested in teaching some CLEs, interested in writing an article for a newspaper or magazine or interested in starting your own business on the side. Perhaps your aunt needs a probate attorney, or your cousin needs a divorce attorney.
If you want to get more involved and don’t know where to start, please feel free to reach out to me. I’m involved in numerous groups here in South Florida and I’d be happy to discuss them with you or let you know which events I am attending so you can come along and get your feet wet.