When I was in law school, no one taught me what networking was or how to do it. But I figured, if I wanted to “network,” I should attend some of those networking events and maybe I would meet someone who would help me find a job. But it was a trip to the dog park where I learned that networking is not about who you meet or whether these events will help lead you to a job prospect. In my experience, successful networking is based on simply building friendships.
On a cool San Francisco day, I was informed that my contract attorney work had run its course. I did not particularly enjoy the job, so I was glad to see it end. But, as a recent grad, I had rent due and student loans to pay. With no prospects lined up, I went for a stroll to the local dog park, where I met Andrew and his adorable Basenji, Chester. Our dogs played on the hillside while we made small talk about our dogs and where we lived. In that small talk, we realized we were both lawyers, we both went to the same law school, and we had a former employer in common. Andrew described the woes of his first year associate who he just fired. Within 20 minutes, I had a job interview the following day and in 24 hours, I had a job offer.
I didn’t go to the dog park to “network.” Instead, I was just making friends. It was that day at the dog park that taught me I was “networking” all wrong. The sooner you view networking as making friends, the sooner you will enjoy it and the sooner you will be successful at networking.
You don’t have to go to the dog park to do be successful at networking. Traditional lawyer networking venues are appropriate. Get involved in groups like CYLA and your local barrister’s group. Get involved. Apply to join the board. You will meet lawyers and make great friends. Stay involved for the long-term. Your meaningful friendships, or networking contacts, are not cultivated over the one-time meeting at the local barristers’ luncheon.