Being a startup, we spend a lot of our time networking. Some of us love it, some of us hate it, but we all agree it has to be done. And we think networking is especially critical when you’re starting out doing anythingf you’re a member of a small firm, trying to put together that crucial initial client list, or if you’ve changed firms recently, networking can completely determine how successful you are in your new setting. After all, if you’ve just moved from a small, boutique environment to the world of Biglaw, you’re not going to need to know the same kinds of people (though the helpfulness of your previous contacts might surprise you.)
One of the most important things we’ve learned about networking is how much it’s about listening, not about talking. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking of networking in a hierarchical way—here’s me at the top, and here are all these contacts below me who can help me. But think about the word “network:” it refers to series of lateral, interconnected points, without regard for hierarchy. Think fishing net, not climbing rope.
What this means, ultimately, is that networking works best when we think about interdependence, and remember that mutual need doesn’t mean “everyone’s mutual need to help you.” Ninety percent of your time at a networking event should be spent learning about what other people are doing, and taking an active interest in how you can help them, rather than promoting your own practice or product. Even if the relevance to your practice or project isn’t immediately obvious, push yourself to keep listening. Sometimes the most meaningful connections take more than thirty seconds to develop, and after all, you shouldn’t head into an event expecting to close the deal. Cultivating valuable contacts takes time, patience, and attentiveness.
But that’s just one piece of advice. Below, we’ve included five of the best articles we’ve found that offer a good perspective on networking. Reading these won’t make you a master networker—you’d have to tear yourself away from the computer to do that—but they make some great points to consider next time you’re at a networking event.
- How to Attend a Conference as Yourself: how to get more out of networking by abandoning shameless self-promotion.
- “But I’m Too Shy to Network!”: specific strategies for the introverted, written from a woman’s perspective.
- How to Network Without Being Fake, Cheesy, Pushy, or Smarmy: a great list of guidelines for networking, focusing on how changing your outlook can positively impact your results.
- Understanding How Women Network: Though we don’t always agree with generalizations about women and men as a whole, this article has some good thoughts on relationship building as a networking tool.
- The Art of Networking: a post about networking wouldn’t be complete without a reblog of someone we know. Here, a slideshow from the fabulous Sloane Berrent about taking an active interest in the people you’re networking with.