Networking is a struggle for many. The idea of doing it is often associated with physical proximity: standing in awkward circles at a cocktail reception, meeting someone for the first time at a coffee shop, handing out your business card. In a world where physical distancing is the new normal, some may be wondering whether networking has become extinct.
For those of you hoping that it’s not possible any longer, you need to know that networking is alive and well. In fact, this is an ideal time to network!
Networking doesn’t depend on being in the same physical space with someone else. The only two things it requires are in abundance right now: time and a willingness to engage in a conversation.
People, generally, have more time to spare right now or are creating time to connect with others. The key is empathy, and it goes both ways.
My clients, who follow a networking system that I adopted for the legal profession, are reporting consistent success rates in setting up telephone calls and Zoom chats during the pandemic. The trick is to remember the reason for networking: to have meaningful and empathetic conversations with people. Networking should never be a short-sighted venture of finding a job. The definition suggests a long-term relationship:
“the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts”
When I say empathetic, I’m talking about a conversation that looks beyond asking for a job. The reason I don’t want you asking for a job is because it’s less likely that you’ll be presented with a job offer during one of these initial conversations. Plus, it makes most people feel uncomfortable when you ask them for a job outright. The more likely outcome is that you’ll be presented with information, ideas or perhaps other people to connect with.
If these conversations are largely about information, then you’ll need to develop a meaningful communication plan, one that allows you to explore your job interests and build trust in the event that a job opportunity is possible.
Take one of my clients who recently landed her first job as a lawyer while networking in this way. Tianna reached out to several family lawyers and had conversations with them to learn about their practice. She never once asked for a job. A few weeks later, one of those lawyers, who wasn’t looking to hire an associate, reached out to Tianna and asked if she was still looking for work. This lawyer was so impressed with the way Tianna handled herself that she created a position for Tianna. In Tianna’s own words,
“Last night I was offered the perfect job and I accepted. I really do not think I could have found a better fit, and I certainly could not have done it without you!”
When done properly, networking allows you to tap into jobs that aren’t advertised (even during a pandemic) and to connect with people in a meaningful way for the benefit of your entire career (not just a job search).
If you’re a new-call and still looking for work, then check out How to Find Your First Job as a Lawyer! for a proven, 12-step program created by Lawyer Coach Paulette.