The other night I went to the first event of the new San Diego Entertainment and Sports Law Group. When I got home I realized how I have grown in my networking from the beginning and how my new approach to introducing myself to new contacts made a big difference.
1. Sometimes there are benefits to networking even when you don’t make many lasting contacts.
If you think about it, once you get past the idea that networking is all about passing out as many business cards as you can, you tend to approach networking events with the idea that you are trying to meet contacts that will help build your practice in the future. However, for many people, the thought of walking into a room full of people you don’t know, especially when everyone is carrying on loud conversations, can be frightening.
For these people, sometimes merely showing up to a few meetings and forcing yourself to interact with people—before you ever need to build contacts—can be extremely beneficial. You will find that you build confidence in your ability to connect with new people, ultimately making you a lot more comfortable connecting with important contacts once you join that all important group. So get out there and start networking as soon as you can especially if you are uncomfortable with the thought of entering a room full of strangers.
2. The level of engagement you can achieve with new contacts can vary greatly depending on your description of what you are doing.
I have to admit I glossed over when I was told how important it is to find a good pitch to use when you are meeting new contacts. For the few months after I took the California Bar Exam I would meet new contacts and explain how I was waiting for bar results. Once the results were released, my description didn’t really change—now I was telling everyone I met that I had just passed the bar and was looking for a job. Inevitably this led to awkward responses by attorneys who recognized how bad the job market was but couldn’t really offer me any assistance.
Then recently I changed my description thanks to my time spent considering going solo and hanging my own shingle. Now I told new contacts that I just passed the bar and am considering opening my own firm, perhaps doing bankruptcy or family law. This simple change drastically shifted the tone of my conversations. Now attorneys were interested in the sorts of steps I have been taking to get started. Law students I meet perk up their ears because I have something of value to share with them instead of the poor state of the job market.
I noticed one other thing changed as well. The more I shared my vision of opening up my own firm, the more I convinced myself that I have what it takes to do it. As I give law students advice on how to start networking or to consider starting a blog I realize that the suggestions I had been reading about marketing my practice online were really great ideas.