By Stephanie Hanna, Esq., founder of The Other 85, in Columbus.
Stephanie Hanna, Esq., founder of The Other 85, recently spoke to the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program Board about the importance of networking and its role in the overall wellbeing of attorneys. Building and maintaining relationships is a vital part of an attorney’s career – and the ability to form lasting connections with those around is a skill that pays off professionally and personally.
If you find yourself struggling with the art of networking, follow these tips.
Shift your mindset.
Shifting your mindset before getting into the strategies of networking makes a huge difference.
Think: GIVER not a TAKER
Instead of approaching networking as looking to receive something (e.g., a job, a client, more business), try thinking about things you can give (e.g., a connection, book recommendation, a resource). Consistently being on the hunt for something is an uphill battle that leads to exhaustion, burnout, and eventually abandonment.
When you are a giver, people want to help you in return.
Think: LONG TERM not SHORT SIGHTED
Relationships don’t just need to be built, they need to be maintained. Look at networking as a long-term investment into your professional development. This mindset shift helps you recognize the amount of work required to maintain relationships and that it is supposed to take time to nurture and develop strong relationships.
Think: QUALITY not QUANTITY
Instead of trying to meet every person at every event you attend, focus on making connections with just a few people. This mindset shift makes networking less overwhelming, makes the goal attainable, and takes the pressure off. Consistently look for easy wins by meeting one to three people each time you are being intentional about building new relationships.
Networking events can be more awkward than meeting the parents, but if you remain confident in your approach, the event will be an enjoyable and beneficial experience.
BE The Friendly Face
Instead of looking for the friendly face, get comfortable BEING the friendly face. Look for the person standing alone and strike up a conversation or invite them to join your group. This tactic instantly takes the pressure off and gives you something to focus on if approaching others makes you uncomfortable.
Have a List of Prepared Topics
Develop a list of topics to talk about and think about your answers to these questions. Think of your favorite podcasts, vacations, and books ahead of time so you’re prepared to make recommendations, ask questions, and be comfortable without fear of running out of things to say.
This is a social event, so keep it light and positive. Don’t complain about work, and never talk negatively about other colleagues, clients, or anyone. The world is much smaller than we think, and you never know how others are connected.
Make a Graceful Exit
It can be awkward when having nothing else to talk about and attempting to make your exit. Know when to end it and have a few key phrases lined up. “So glad we connected.” Or “It was great catching up. I have a few other people to catch up with.”
Practice delivering a few rehearsed lines with confidence. Whether it’s with someone you trust, the mirror, or in the car on your way to the party, taking the time to practice is one of the smartest ways to invest in your professional development.
Build networking into your day.
If you want to build your client base, get referrals, establish your brand and be a better professional, networking is required. But when you’re already busting your tail to do your job, be involved in your community, stay somewhat healthy, and maintain your personal relationships, networking often falls to the bottom of the list. Here are three easy ways to make networking part of your routine.
Networking can happen anywhere.
Approach the people you are already interacting with as opportunities to build networking relationships. Say hello to the person in the elevator, strike up a conversation with another parent at your kid’s basketball game, make a friend at the gym. It may sound insignificant, but one of the biggest mistakes people make when networking is turning it into something much harder than it is. Just start connecting with the people already around you!
Do what works best for you.
Would 10 minutes a day or an hour once a week be best? Think about your current routine and what makes the most sense. Often, we feel like we have to do what’s working for someone else because we think that’s our only option. That’s the first way to turn yourself off from a task! Think of the easiest way to build networking into your day, and build a plan around that.
Don’t forget to add networking into your calendar. Schedule a recurring appointment to write thank-you notes, to scour publications for articles your contacts might like, or to look for ways to congratulate colleagues on their accomplishments. Spend the allotted time focusing on these tasks, just as you would anything else on your appointments list.
Networking doesn’t have to be a chore. These tips can help you feel more confident as you build relationships. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
By Stephanie Hanna, Esq., founder of The Other 85. The Other 85 is based on the premise that only 15 percent of attorney job success comes from the hard, technical skills – Stephanie helps you master the other 85 through workshops, keynotes, and one-on-one coaching. Learn more at www.theother85.net.
Edited by Scott R. Mote, Esq., Executive Director of the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP). If you are an attorney who is stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, OLAP can help. OLAP has saved lives, careers, marriages and families. All inquiries are confidential. (800) 348-4343 / ohiolap.org