Build Sincere Connections
Networking is a broad term that many (including a younger me) tend to define as attending industry events and mingling with as many people as possible. However, I’ve learned that the kind of networking that has the power to impact your career fundamentally isn’t about how many business cards you collect or cocktail parties you attend.
It starts and ends with quality human relationships built on authentic connections.
As human beings, we thrive off connecting with others who share our interests and experiences. Networking becomes more natural and authentic when you identify what someone else has in common with you—whether that’s a hobby you both enjoy or a work situation you’ve both gone through or are going through.
For young lawyers, time is at a premium. It’s important to invest it wisely. Find the individuals and groups you can build a sincere connection with.
Why Authenticity Matters
Your network will not only be important in sourcing job opportunities. It will also be your guide to understanding the unwritten “rules of engagement” in the legal field.
Success in law is more formulaic than I realized. Of course, good work is table stakes. What sets the best lawyers apart is that they’re the go-to people in the room—whether for a certain person or group of people or a certain topic.
Becoming a go-to person doesn’t require decades in the field, but it does require having a strong network of people you can consult, learn from, and grow with.
When I think back to law school, I wish I’d known that networking didn’t have to be a stressful night of planned conversations with everyone in the room. A large network full of opportunities was achievable just by being me.
By freeing myself to focus energy and time networking where I felt most authentic, I was able to build a broad, wide, and diverse network of mentors, friends, and colleagues. Together, they’ve helped me each step of my career and continue challenging me in ways I never imagined.
Keeping an Open Mind
So much of what I think has defined my career hasn’t been what I read in a law school book. Rather, it’s been what I learned by keeping an open mind and listening to those in my network—including those outside of law.
Having authentic connections with people in industries and professions outside of yours will help round out your skillset. Soft skills transcend industry. Leadership is leadership, whether you’re in law, technology, or something else. You can learn a lot from those who’ve been successful in their own industries and apply the same skills to your career as a lawyer.
I’ve found that perhaps surprising to a younger me, cultivating authentic relationships outside of law can help in uncovering and developing a niche. My focus on AI and patent law resulted from networking with those in the technology field in my early days as a young lawyer. By taking time to authentically connect and really understand what others were doing in their respective industries, I was able to best set myself up as an expert in areas poised for growth.
What you’ve heard is true: networking is important. But your network is only as good as the people in it. Make it those who bring out your best, including stretching you far more than you ever thought was possible.