Professional networking is vital for career advancement. Connecting with others is one of the most important and impactful business and life skills that one will ever learn. As professionals we’ve all been there; our email inbox full of invitations to happy hours, lunches, and conferences. Add in the CLEs or professional development events your firm requires you to attend, and you can find yourself attending something nearly every week. For some, such invitations are seen as opportunities to unwind and indulge in free drinks and appetizers after a long day of work. For others, they’re the dreaded events they feel obligated to attend.
These opportunities, whether they come with free drinks or help you achieve your CLE credits for the year, they possess one major component…the opportunity to network. Whether we choose to admit it or not, networking is important at any stage of your career. Sure, joining that bar section or attending that luncheon can sometimes seem daunting given our busy schedules, but once you realize the power of relationship building and the mutual benefits that may stem from it, what once seemed like a dreadful task, will soon become a welcomed part of your professional life.
Even if you’re well established in your career or have even landed your dream job which you’re certain you’ll never depart from, networking has proven to be a valuable tool. If you’re familiar with the old adage “No man is an island”, then you’re fully aware that everyone at some point in their life has needed help; even the most successful people. Hard work and ambition are important to success, but those whom you surround yourself with are just as important.
So why is networking so important? For starters, networking is an excellent way to expand your connections. We’ve all been told at one time or another that “It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know.” I’ve even been told, “It’s not who you know, but who knows you.” When you network, you create relationships with others; relationships that can be mutually beneficial in a myriad of ways. One benefit in particular is the opportunity to share and exchange ideas and knowledge. Your network may be used to seek advice, feedback, or even to learn what common pitfalls to avoid. You may simply use your network to discuss your point of view or to learn the views of others. Regardless of what you learn from those in your network, the point is you learn and you gain varying perspectives.
The most obvious benefit of networking is business development. By being an active networker, you position yourself to stay “top-of- mind” for others in your profession when it comes to referrals. Every one of us at some point in our career with get a phone call or email regarding a potential client whose needs we realize we can’t meet. It’s at this point that people scroll through their mental rolodexes or visit their LinkedIn page to see who may be the best person for the job. If you’ve worked to build and develop a strong network, you probably have positioned yourself to be that person who immediately comes to mind.
Members of the YLD Solo/Small Firm Committee understand how important and impactful networking can be. The committee is comprised of attorneys whose practice areas range from family law to immigration law to real estate law. Committee members benefit from this diversity because they are exposed to those whose practice areas they may not be familiar with or at the very least, it allows them to create contacts who inevitably become excellent sources of referrals.
To foster and encourage the building of relationships among its members, the Committee recently created a listserv that allows members to share information, list referrals for potential clients, and ask questions. The Committee also has implemented an online directory so that committee members can contact each other directly to ask questions and send referrals to each other. To provide networking opportunities that expand beyond those who’ve joined the committee, the YLD SSF has a number of networking events that are scheduled to occur over the next year.
In conclusion, the return on your investment in networking will be far greater than you could ever image.
By: Persephone Shelton