How to Network: Get Out and Do Things. With People.

networking-group

In college, and then law school, career counselors always pronounced Networking just like that—in italics and with capital letters, as if it were a foreign proper noun or something. They made it sound like Networking was a formula: schedule meeting, exchange cards, and Presto!, you’ve got a job. Or a mentor. Or a client. Or something.

Do things without any expectation of referrals or business. That’s not the point, even if it is usually the end result. This isn’t marketing. It’s un-marketing, if you need a buzz word.

Eventually, I figured out what most people who are successful at networking eventually figure out: Whatever Networking may be, real networking is just getting out and doing things with people. It doesn’t necessarily require an appointment or a suit or a stack of business cards. In fact, it is usually better without those things.

How to fail at networking

The one surefire way to fail at networking is to try Networking while you are networking. Go ahead and whip out your business card and try to talk about how you can “add value” to someone else’s business while volunteering at the homeless shelter or watching Monday Night Football with your college friends. See how well that works.

The harder you try to Network, the less well you are probably doing it. People generally don’t like it when you try to sell yourself to them. Or beg from them.

What things to do and which people to do them with

So what kind of things should you get out and do with people? Anything. Eat breakfast. Drink beer. Go to a game. Volunteer (not necessarily doing lawyer things). Play kickball. Have a barbecue. Go to a fundraiser. In other words, do normal things.

Do things without any expectation of referrals or business. That’s not the point, even if it is usually the end result. This isn’t marketing. It’s un-marketing, if you need a buzz word.

Whatever you hope to get out of networking—mentoring, referrals, clients, friends—here is the only real formula: Get out and do things. With people.

Which people should you get out and do things with? Friends, neighbors, family, colleagues. Pretty much anyone.

You can even network online, if you want to. There is no magic to that, either. Make friends. Build relationships. Take them offline.

Skip the gurus; learn to make friends

There are a lot of consultants, coaches, and gurus out there who will charge you a lot of money for their 60-day marketing boot camp. I’m sure there are crystals or pyramids or chihauhas involved, or something. If you are tempted to turn to the next marketing guru coach you see for a magic Networking formula, save your money, because I’ve got the secret right here: Get out and do things. With people.

In other words: make friends.

It’s hard to come up with a “system” for making friends. You have to make it sound really important on which lapel you to put your name tag, and over-analyze what you should say as you hand over your business card. And none of that will help, because it’s Networking, not networking.

You know who knows, likes, and trusts you? Your friends. And probably a lot of your acquaintances.

So make friends.

I know this scares the heck out of the introverts, who would much rather sit and home and bang out LinkedIn updates. But no matter how effective your social media campaign (and I have my doubts), getting out and doing things with people is the most effective way to generate referrals, find mentors, and discover resources.

Whatever you hope to get out of networking—mentoring, referrals, clients, friends—here is the only real formula: Get out and do things. With people.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevehwuk/2220696943/)

  • Greta Tackebury

    Absolutely excellent advice! I have been trying to get this point across since I’ve been doing career services. Now I’m just going to hand everyone your article!

  • http://constructionlawva.com Christopher G. Hill

    Wow, advice that does not involve social media. As one who represents contractors, I figured out a while ago that a handshake and shooting sporting clays or having lunch goes farther in many ways than my blog. A two pronged approach with heavy “real world” networking seems to work well for me.

  • http://www.PAinjurycase.com Dave

    In person networking will always beat social media. Good to do both, but direct personal contacts has worked best for me. Thanks for a nice article Sam.

  • jumoke adejimola

    Absolutely Sam, spot on! I am have been slowly learning this year that going out and doing things with people has rapidly built up a network and friendships that are boosting my career. It is more natural that wooden handshakes and bland business cards…that doesn’t work!

  • http://soloinchicago.com Peter

    Interesting post but does just making friends help a lawyer’s biz? Agree u don’t want to be at the uncomfortable NETWORKING extreme but there should be some targeting of who might be able to refer business and then a follow-up plan to get to know 2-3 people you met well.

  • https://twitter.com/dannymjohnson Danny Johnson

    Nice Post! I used to read your posts (and even contributed once) when I worked at NetDocuments so it was a pleasant surprise to see this post get linked in an email sent to all current students at Georgetown Law School.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Welcome back!

  • Daniel Piedra

    Make others feel important; be appreciative; make them like you because you make them feel important, and smile, smile, smile.

  • Karin Ciano

    Hi Sam! Couldn’t agree more. As a card-carrying introvert, I can say that retail networking (one person at a time) has always worked best for me. It’s amazingly hard for ordinary people to find lawyers, and I get a lot of calls from folks I’ve met who may not need my services, but may need the services of one of my friends – and would not know how to reach them directly. And I get cases the same way. The problem is that (a) law schools teach extrovert-style networking that involves big rooms full of people; and (b) some folks get the idea that social activity can’t be sincere and fun if you end up getting business from it later. You’ve done a nice job of debunking both here.

  • Brian Tannebaum

    Uh huh

  • Eric Cooperstein

    Gee, sounds like what a bar association does. I was just at the annual kickoff yesterday for the Hennepin County Bar Association’s mentoring groups – there are about 100 people signed up. We’re also piloting 28 clubs this year, which include photography, biking, knitting, and foodies, to name a few. And, of course, CLEs, sections, and committees. It’s not too late to renew your membership, Sam!

    • http://samglover.net/ Sam Glover

      Yes, strictly speaking, the bar association does offer opportunities for lawyers to get out and do things with other lawyers.