Our guest writer SuchALawyerNow lets us know their take on networking.
As a very junior lawyer at a big firm, the word “networking” meant fairly little to me. It was glory speak for meeting a whole lot of much older lawyers to whom I was literally the most useless human on the planet; the lowest level cog in a very big machine. Young professionals events were similar; in twenty years we might be of some use to each other, but for now, we were just drinking buddies in the same boat.
When I moved to Wellington (and my job changed dramatically) this all changed. Suddenly, as a junior working directly for my boss, rather than under other solicitors, senior solicitors, associates, consultants and partners, I was in a position where networking meant something. So, in an effort to start making connections in this brand new world, I hit up the Tinder of the networking world – LinkedIn.
That’s actually a lie. Initially I just used Google. A blunt tool, but it helped me find the people I wanted to meet all the same. LinkedIn was more a filtering tool – does this person still resemble their hopelessly outdated website picture? Could I confirm they did in fact work in the area I thought they did? LinkedIn also, however, suggests other connections to make. A little like dating – if this one isn’t quite what you’re after, have you thought of their friend over here? Not identical, but enough in common this relationship might be fruitful.
After enough stalking, it came time to actually start upon the networking side of things. When I first moved here my goal was to have coffee with at least one relevant new person every week. I probably averaged a little less than that, but it quickly became apparent that people were far more helpful than the internet! Some of my best contacts ended up coming from in-person recommendations when it turned out my area-of-expertise stalking wasn’t quite as good as someone of the internet generation might hope.
The actual meeting up, however, is fairly terrifying. Everyone I encountered was more than happy to meet up for a coffee, but what comes next? “Hi, thanks for meeting me! Here’s my two minute backstory and why I might be relevant or of use to you”? Do we just have a chat and get to the relevant stuff eventually? What if this one is purely networking – i.e. I’m not trying to sell myself, I’m just trying to make a new connection? And how to know what coffee date will be which way inclined? It was about as much like dating as I could possibly have imagined. Everyone was different. Some coffee chats were strictly a thirty minute deal including the walk there and back, others were leisurely, hour plus long affairs. With some there was instant chemistry – there’s nothing quite like the theoretical framework of damages in contract law! With others, it was a slow burn. With some, I led the charge. With others, I barely got a word in edgewise. In short: I was refining my dating skills for my next relevant period of singledom. Wait, no, I was refining my people and sales skills. Or are they really all the same thing? At times I could hardly tell the difference, except that usually my daytime coffee dates from LinkedIn were better company than my age appropriate evening Tinder dates! What I really gained from the experience, though, was that networking is just as terrifying and just as exhilarating; it really is the dating of the business world. And there’s something a lot more exciting about selling your professional skills than your smile and qualifications in the kitchen!
The first moment someone I’d networked called me for assistance was a glorious one. The hustle had paid off. It was a little like being asked on a second date – now we’ve met, shall we take this relationship to the next level? Move over coffee, we’re here for dinner.
Rather than networking let SuchCrowd bring the network to you! One of our most recent events, a sustainability conference, had a lot of industry experts and key players attend.
Check us out! www.suchcrowd.co.nz