Networking 101: Finding Your Crowd
Professional socializing is an integral part of a successful attorney’s career. Yet we attorneys are like moths to the flame as we focus our career on the clock and not on our colleagues. There are often good articles encouraging us to network and extolling the virtues of networking, but there are fewer articles about the act and art of networking. We’ve all seen them: articles and presentations about how to “stand out in the crowd.” While these are often good tidbits of advice, I think they are skipping an important step: You need to be IN the crowd in order to stand out from it!
Networking can often be daunting to some. Social extroverts like me are drawn to crowds, and I have no problem walking into a room full of strangers to meet them all, one by one. Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, here are three quick tips on how to get out there and find your crowd.
Choose a crowd/group to join.
It is important to take the time to research a variety of professional groups that might be of interest to you. Find out what their purpose is, what their goals are, and what they do on a regular basis. Does their purpose resonate with your values? Are their goals something that you also aspire to? Are their regular activities something to which you would actually show up? Think about it. You are more willing to put your energy and finite time in your personal social life toward those things you care about. Your professional social life should be framed the same way.
Keep up on events and happenings.
In a stream of tens to hundreds of emails a day, it’s easy for information about professional social activities to get lost in the shuffle. You know what I’m talking about — you finally open that email and realize that it’s talking about an event that happened two weeks ago. We’ve been there. There are many options for keeping up on the events and happenings of the group you choose. I’m a fan of color-coding and creating filters to organize incoming emails, but it doesn’t matter how you keep up, as long as you do! If you join the group, but don’t pay any attention to what the group is doing, it defeats the whole idea.
Attend at least one event a month.
Okay, you’ve got your color-coded events on your calendar — now you need to actually attend them. It is easy to get bogged down in work, to stay a little bit later and just skip that event. Let’s be honest: There isn’t a direct correlation between attending that event and 1) meeting the deadline you’re working on, 2) improving your career track at your current job, 3) getting a promotion, or 4) making a lateral move. That isn’t the purpose of getting involved! Those can be added benefits of being active in a professional community, but the main focus is to expand your professional network. I’m a fan of adding alerts to events — not the standard 15-minute pop-up, but a 1–2 hour advance notice that actually gives me time to wind down what I’m working on and get to where the event is happening.
The key is consistency. Think quality rather than quantity. Be specific, be constant, and be in it for the long haul. Over time, you will see the value of your involvement, both for your professional life and also adding a balance of socializing to your work schedule.