Create Your Network Before You Need Them

This is a paraphrased title from a great blog post by Jeremiah Owyang called “Build Your Network Before You Need Them” and he says it best here:

Those who ignore the party/conversation/network when they are content and decide to drop in when they need the network may not succeed. It’s pretty easy to spot those that are just joining the network purely to take –not to give. Therefore, be part of the party/conversation/network before you need anything from anyone. Start now, and continue to build relationships by giving now: share knowledge, help others, and become a trusted node and connector, not just an outlying ‘dot’ of a comet that swings in every 4 years or so.

When you build a network of connections, if you just join as a taker, you will be exposed as the opportunist you’ve been flagged to be.  This is not what networking is about.  Why do so many people get this wrong?  No wonder networking is viewed as an intimidating chore by some, those very people who see it as ‘asking’  or ‘begging’ for something first rather than offering genuinely and generously first.

Networking is about sharing freely as well as letting others know what you can uniquely offer to them, positioning yourself as a resource, a sphere of influence or one who can direct others to those who can provide the information or services they seek.

We are remembered best for those things we give freely without asking for anything in return.

And without fail, the rewards come when we least expect it.

When you think of your next social and/or professional networking opportunity position yourself as a giver.  This can be a CLE, a Legal Conference, a church gathering, an alumni meeting, a tweetup, a live teleseminar or a Facebook event. Think first of what you can bring to the party rather than what you can take home in a doggie bag. The experience may be less intimidating because you are not asking for anything.  It may help you to be less of a wallflower or lurker and more of an active participant.

This connecting and giving philosophy will not only help you to enjoy those ‘networking events’ but also make you a better professional…. and a better human being.

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7 comments on “Create Your Network Before You Need Them

  • I agree, Susan. If we attend networking and social functions, or engage in social media with the goal of immediately turning the people we meet into clients or referral sources, we tend to come off as opportunists.

    Networking is all about building relationships. But I think what frustrates many people is that building relationships can take time, and they lose patience when they don’t see an immediate return on their investment.

  • There is no truer advice. In this regard, I think it is important to say that joining groups and paying dues is not enough. It does not mean you need to be a huckster, but even attending groups, get togethers, meet ups, once in while might help some but it will generally not have the effect one wants. You need to be seen, if nothing else, because that reminds people the attorney is around. One needs to be be at least moderately active.

  • It also takes time to build a decent network. If you wait until you need the network to start building, then it won’t be immediately helpful and you’ll have to wait for any noticeable results. But if you’ve already built a network, they’ll be there waiting for you when you need them.

    • I actually encourage those still in school to recognize the importance of building their professional networks now. They should be connecting in real life first and foremost, but also on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn even with a student profile, connecting with those who are future resources, mentors and guides. It’s critical to getting a running start in this marketplace. And they can be givers as students. Because they can’t practice doesn’t mean they don’t have referrals for practicing lawyers. Smart professionals know this and should nurture these student relationships. And they should also be going to professional events (if feasible) to meet the players in their practice areas, too.

  • This is a good reminder. I’ve always dreaded networking events when I’m focused on what I need rather than what I can offer. It’s not always clear what one can give in the near term, but remembering that building these networks takes time and the intention to give and take makes it a bit easier.

  • Susan:

    I agree with starting in law school. The majority of my referrals (that don’t come from former clients) come from my friends from law school. Of the ten or so friends that I see on a regular basis from law school only three of us are still practicing law. On a monthly basis my friends contact me about a friend or associate that needs legal help and they ask whether I can help. Most of the time I can’t help the person but I always make an effort to find someone who can. Not only do my friends appreciate the help but the referral remembers me as that lawyer who took the time to help them.

    I firmly believe that networking should occur organically. Whether it’s making friends playing sports, at church, with fellow parents, charitable functions, golf or whatever you like doing. If you are genuinely interested in participating in the group it will show and you will make friends and eventually you become “that friend of mine who is a lawyer, you should call him”.

  • I believe networking starts with cultivating mentors to help you establish a practice. It helps in so many ways.

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