6 practical tips to make your networking efforts more effective
Everyone knows that, much like diet and exercise, networking is good for you and that there are lots of excuses for avoiding it. Practicing lawyers confronting the need to "get out there and network!" find it engenders powerful attitudinal obstacles. But unless you tap networking as a business development tool you will consistently fall short of your potential.
Here are some general tips to make those networking efforts more effective:
1. Network systematically. Make a contract with yourself that you will spend a certain amount of time networking. For example, your contract could be a commitment to have a certain number of coffees, lunches, or association gatherings per month. Keep the commitment realistic. If you set your sights too high, you'll likely get frustrated and stop all of your efforts. The goal is eventually to make networking a seamless habit.
2. Listen. Remember the ears-to-mouth ratio. You have two ears and one mouth. Spend at least twice as much time listening as talking. If you don't listen, you will not learn how you can help this person.
3. Follow up with regular communication and thoughtful gestures. Email your contacts an article they might find interesting, send a card when their child graduates from college or a plant on their birthday, or make a date for lunch again later in the year.
4. Be enthusiastic. Few people hire lawyers who don't enjoy what they do. When I was an in-house attorney, I wanted lawyers who truly loved what they did. I was once involved in a 1st Amendment case and was seeking counsel. I obtained three referrals. On paper, they all had the necessary credentials and experience. I then interviewed all three. One lawyer in particular simply exuded passion for the First Amendment when we talked. Guess which one I hired?
5. Be confident, not arrogant. Many lawyers find it difficult to strike the proper balance between these two. Everyone wants to hire the lawyer who sounds like she knows what she's doing. Unfortunately, in trying to project confidence, many lawyers "cross the line," boasting about themselves or their law firm. When I've encountered these I was never impressed, but I was always incredibly bored.
6. Be patient. How many people do you know who got married after only one date? Then why expect to be hired after one lunch? Remember, networking is a process of building relationships. It may take years of staying in contact before you are retained.