I was recently asked to share my “#1 career tip” with a group of young lawyers. Here is what I told them.
Everyone talks about networking…about starting early, and the importance of networking when looking for a new job.
But the real key is to practice authentic networking.
What does this mean?
It means networking to learn from others and to open your horizons, not just to advance your career.
It means that you should not be looking to build a network of superficial connections. Do not just connect with people you think can help you. Connect with people you think you can help as well.
You should always have a reason to connect with someone beyond “What can they do for me?”
You don’t need a deep relationship with everyone in your network, but it must be a relationship of give and take, a two-way street.
Perhaps you can’t offer a lot. But perhaps you can forward an article you think would interest them. Perhaps you can offer the chance to reminisce about your time at your shared alma mater. Perhaps as a younger alum, you can give an older alum a glimpse into what the school community is like today.
What does authentic networking mean in a time when we cannot meet people in person?
Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date. Connect systematically and in a timely manner with people you engage with virtually.
And remember connecting with someone in an authentic way is not a one-off. Use that time when you would have been at in-person networking events to keep up existing relationships. Check in with your contacts from time to time—because you care about them as human beings, not just when you are looking for a job.
Another lawyer suggested to me recently that by dropping the buzzword “networking” altogether and replacing it with “relationship building,” we will put ourselves in the right mindset. Perhaps she is right.
Remember that developing authentic relationships also means you don’t just look for the people at the top. It’s great if you can network with law firm partners and company executives, but you should also look for connections with peer lawyers, with administrative staff and janitorial staff. And with people outside the legal industry altogether.
Treat everyone with equal respect and positivity, and you’ll do well — in your career, and in your life.
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. This post is by Abby Gordon, Senior Director at Lateral Link, who works with attorney candidates on law firm and in-house searches, primarily in Boston, New York, and Europe. Prior to joining Lateral Link, Abby spent seven years as a corporate associate with Cleary Gottlieb, focusing on capital markets transactions for Latin American clients in New York and for the last five years for European clients in Paris. A native of Boston, Abby holds a J.D., cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. in government and romance languages, magna cum laude, from Dartmouth College. Abby also worked with the International Rescue Committee as a Fulbright Scholar in Madrid, Spain. She is a member of the New York, Massachusetts and Maine Bars and is fluent in French and Spanish (and dabbles in Portuguese and Italian). You can view additional articles by Abby here.