9 Reasons You're Sitting At Home While Your Competition Is Networking

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Networking is still (and might always be) the best way to secure employment, as well as career growth and business development opportunities. Networking starts early—when you’re student—and continues throughout your professional career. Even so, many law school students and junior attorneys are intimidated by networking—or simply don’t want to do it. They offer a variety of reasons—some good, some are more obvious excuses. The most common explanations are: 1. They think networking is selfish. But networking isn’t calling someone and asking for a job, or for help getting a job; networking is reciprocal. It’s building a group of interconnected relationships whereby the entire group can work together to reach their individual goals.

2. They undervalue the power of networking. People who don’t network successfully are literally unaware of all the opportunities they’ve missed, but many senior lawyers have told me that the majority of their professional and personal opportunities (clients, leadership, speaking engagements, political appointments, job openings and hiring, board memberships, and more) have come to them passively through their network. Most did not have to go after these opportunities; the opportunities came to them. And when they did look for opportunities, their network helped.

3. They get frustrated if there is no immediate pay-off for their efforts. Networking is a long-term activity. You may see immediate dividends, or it may take a long time to pay off. You just never know. But it’s a game you can’t win if you’re not involved.

4. They don’t realize networking is a learned skill. No matter how shy, introverted, or unconnected you believe you are, you can get learn to network successfully. It only requires that you want to learn.

5. They think they don’t have access to a network. People often claim they don’t have a network, and use that as an excuse not to get started. But everyone has a network. Start with family, extended family, neighbors, classmates, former classmates, colleagues from internships and other work.

6. They don’t aim high. Once you get started, don’t limit your networking to your peers, who have little or no influence on hiring or career development. You need to reach higher up the ladder. Some of the easiest ways to do this are to extend your network to include alumni, professionals with common interests and goals, more senior lawyers at your employer, bar association members, and others.

7. They don’t want to do the work. If you think of network as work, then it becomes work. If you think of it as building enduring (or short-term) professional friendships, finding people whose missions and organizations you can assist, and learning about the industry, then its much easier to do. Even so, investing in networking takes less time than you’d think—even 30 minutes a week can lead to lasting relationships and huge impacts on your career.

8. They don’t realize their competition is getting ahead of them. You may not be out there building a professional network, but you can be certain your competition is. Every year that goes by, your competition is outdistancing you in ways you may never know, including jumping the line when resumes are reviewed and hiring decisions are made.

9. They’re afraid of rejection. As you expand your network to meet new people, you’re bound to run into rejection. More likely, however, you’ll run into apathy; people simply don’t respond to your inquires or email. But so what? Again, it can takes very few “hits” to change your career. So what do you have to lose?

All of these excuses block law students and new lawyers from developing and nurturing the networks that could have tremendous positive impacts on their careers and lives. If you recognize yourself in any of these excuses then consider this: your competition isn’t at home sitting on the couch. Your competition is building the long-lasting relationships that will put them ahead of the game. Isn’t it time you joined them?