Networking Event Calendar Page

If You Hate “Networking” Stop Using That Word

If you hate networking, don’t go to a legal “networking event”.  Don’t force yourself to schedule a “networking coffee”.  Don’t ask a partner to lunch to network with her. Don’t network to find a new referral source.  Definitely stop reproaching yourself for the size of your network!

You have my permission to stop. 

Now, pause.  Let this sink in.  Are you starting to feel better?

But you’re also thinking, Elizabeth, what the heck?  What about “Business Development”?  How will I get clients or referral sources if I’m not out there networking?  It’s what the law firm, consultants, articles, blogs, and TEDX tell me I’m supposed to be doing.  You know, “build your network before you need it” and “it’s not about who you know, but who knows you.” 

Yes, yes, yes, all true, except for any variation of the word network.  It’s a noun and a verb. That monster holds many attorneys back.

Reframe “Networking” As “Meeting People You Might Like”

Networking is relationship building.

If you dread the “networking” activities in your business development plan, reframe them as opportunities to meet people you might like.  Go meet people in these strategically chosen organizations and see if you’d like to get to know them a little more. See if you’d like to talk with any of them again.  Go with an open mind and see if something enjoyable happens.

If you don’t want to get to know anyone you meet, fine, no problem. Seriously, it’s fine.  Just don’t be rude.  Rude is rude.  It’s wrong, and it will come back and haunt you.

If you meet someone and you think, yes, I wouldn’t mind talking with this person again, great.   

There you go, you’ve met someone you wouldn’t mind talking with again.  Congratulations.

Of course, you’re thinking, so what, I met someone nice, what do I do next?  I want clients now. How do I turn this person, this contact, into business? Into a referral source? Into a client?  Into $$$?

Whoa, Padewan.

Meeting Someone You Wouldn’t Mind Talking with Again is the First Small Step in Building a Relationship

Networking is relationship building.

Building a relationship takes time.

Despite love at first sight, marriage proposals take time.  Job offers take time.  Even your loyal pet probably held off for a little bit when they first met you. 

Even if business sparks fly with someone you just met at the Turnaround Management Association conference, that person is very unlikely to jump into a business deal with you tonight.

It Takes Time to Become Known, Liked, and Trusted

So put your lawyer business card (do people still carry them?) back in your pocket.  Stop worrying about how to ask for business from someone you just met. 

Congratulate yourself for banishing the word network and stay tuned on how to build relationships with people you just met or reconnected with and wouldn’t mind talking with again.

Business development involves nurturing relationships over time with care and attention. You’re planting the seeds of relationships and tending your garden.

Fn. This same concept applies to “networking” for legal job searching and other legal career management purposes. Wherever you are and whatever stage you’re at as a lawyer, interesting and positive things can happen when you are open to meeting people and naturally building relationships.

If you would like practical, strategic, customized help with your law practice and legal career, I would love to work with you.  Please contact me