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May 25, 2017 Articles

Maximizing Opportunities as a Lateral Hire

By Shireen Meer

Congratulations on starting an exciting new chapter as a lateral hire! You’re starting with a clean slate, with the added advantage of bringing with you some experience and the confidence that comes along with experience. You obviously want to maximize any and all opportunities as you respark your career. Here are a few tried and tested suggestions that may come in handy when starting out as a lateral hire.

Prior to your first day, visit online profiles of the new colleagues in your office and your practice area. Make a note of the people whose profiles attract your attention, either from the perspective of practice area or from other similarities, e.g., professional activities, common interests, or common schools. All colleagues in your practice area may not be located in the same office that you will be joining. Make a separate list of people in other offices whom you would like to contact. These are the people you should consider sending “hello notes” to within the first week of your joining. Everyone else you should aim to meet in person. Everyone has different capacities to retain names and faces, but the idea is that when you meet the colleagues in person, you will already have looked at their profiles and have some amount of background information that you could potentially use to spark a meaningful conversation.

Internal Networking
Internal networking is a severely underrated activity. If you think about it, this is an activity with nearly zero cost and potentially unlimited benefits. In some firms, new recruits are taken around and introduced to everyone. If that is the case for you, that’s wonderful. If not, you will have to take the initiative. We all appreciate that there is a level of awkwardness involved in this process—more for some folks than others—but I cannot stress enough the importance of a simple self-introduction. And this is where your research will again come in handy. Try to remember the people whose work is of interest to you. Seek out the colleagues who interviewed you. There is no harm in mentioning that you looked at someone’s profile and the particular aspect of her work that is of interest to you. Ask on the spot whether you can follow up with her to learn more about her work. This is especially true for partners or experts in your area of interest, but also true of other colleagues. As a newcomer, it is the perfect opportunity, and it is a natural setting. You are new and are knocking on someone’s door to introduce yourself.

Take it a step further for partners in your area of interest; ask if they would go out to lunch with you. Follow up with an email and suggestions for times. People want to be helpful, but you have to make the process effortless for them. When you meet colleagues whose practice is of interest to you, express an interest to work with them. It is rare that colleagues will not try to accommodate your request. It may take time, but it will eventually happen.

Just as with external networking, the key to internal networking is to sow the seeds and nurture the relationship. In the case of internal networking, those steps are virtually effortless: you are bound to see your colleagues with some frequency, at least in the hallways if not elsewhere, and all you really have to do is continue to say hello, ask colleagues what they are working on, and express an interest to help out.

Also, it is beneficial to attend happy hours and other internal firm events. These are natural opportunities to meet colleagues and enhance your visibility. Take it upon yourself to introduce yourself to every new face.

New Initiatives
Did your old firm have a committee or an initiative that you found particularly useful or beneficial, such as a lunch and learn, a leadership initiative, or a mentorship program? If so, it may be a good idea to try to build that at your new firm. Find out who the committee or social chairs are and set up a meeting with them to discuss your ideas or find them at a happy hour and float your idea.

Never underestimate the power of quiet observation. It is easy to identify who the superstars or peers on the fast track are—they are the ones most in demand. Observe how they operate and what they do differently from others. What are their common characteristics? If these traits aren’t easily identifiable from a distance, don’t hesitate to ask for advice. Ask them what they think makes them successful. In my experience, most successful people have a growth-oriented mindset and are willing and open to share their experiences to help others.

Build a Reputation
Do your job well. No amount of networking will yield long-term benefits if you don’t have a solid reputation for being a hard worker and doing a good job. First, do well what you have been asked to do. Next, anticipate what you may be asked next and try to prepare. Or have suggestions for what the next course of action should be.

Identify Potential Sponsors
Building a reputation takes time, and so does finding a sponsor. You are essentially looking for someone who will be your voice in front of decision makers. This is a relationship-building exercise. It can happen quickly and naturally for some people. For others it may take a longer time. It could be due to a friendship or mentorship, or it could be because of a close working relationship. Have your radar up for people whom you think you can seek advice from, and don’t restrict yourself to one person.

These are simple suggestions that are easy to implement and yet can be highly effective in a lateral move. And, as with all advice, take what you think may work in your particular set of circumstances.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, position, or policy of Berkeley Research Group, LLC or its other employees and affiliates.

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