Tiffany Farber is a solo practitioner who has been practicing law since 2008. As someone who has been through transition in her career, she understands the challenges lawyers in this situation face.
Last week I challenged you to figure out what your puzzle piece looks like. Hopefully that exercise helped you to discover your unique qualities. Puzzle pieces are also useful in determining your networking style.
Now, I know that the word networking causes most people to roll their eyes and say something like, “networking? You mean pretending you’re interested in someone so they eventually give you a job?” No, people, that’s not what I meant at all. If you’re doing it right, networking is nothing like that. I do a ton of networking and I am always genuinely interested in whomever I am talking with. My goal in networking is to make new friends, and yours should be too. It’s not just walking into a room and thinking, “okay, who here is going to give me a job?”
Rest assured, networking doesn’t necessarily mean going to a random bar association meeting, shaking a bunch of hands and coming home exhausted with an empty bottle of hand sanitizer. In my book, networking really just means connecting to another human being. If discovering your puzzle piece was last week’s challenge, this week’s challenge is to make a new friend.
Now, I understand that I’m in the minority of people who talk to strangers in line at the grocery store. That may not be your style. There are hands off ways to connect with people, like e-mail. Say you are interested in a particular area of law like estate planning. Figure out who runs an estate planning committee through your local bar association and shoot him an e-mail. Has someone written an article on a topic you are interested in? Reach out to her and ask for advice on how she became an expert. People love to share their stories, and most people out there like to help. The best way to reach a new destination is by meeting a person who will lead you there.
Try talking to people who are non-lawyers too. In fact, I encourage that. Go to a networking event for professional people and you will meet all sorts of interesting folks. Many of them know lawyers they can connect you to. Heck, some of them may even need a lawyer (though I am not encouraging soliciting your services). Think about how much better it will feel to be one of five lawyers at an event instead of one of 200. I’ve met some cool people at non-lawyer events.
Networking is a practice that has landed me all of the jobs that I’ve had in the last five years and has brought me in contact with each of the wonderful mentors that I have. The people I have met while networking are now my friends, but at one time they were strangers. There was once a time when you didn’t know your spouse, your best friend, your favorite neighbor and the list goes on. Try taking a risk and getting to know someone new this week.
You cannot imagine the world that opens up when you make a connection with another human being.