Want to Succeed at Networking? Focus on Mutuality

If there’s one thing I tell every coaching client, it’s this: “Network, network, network.” Your contacts can help you learn about opportunities, decide how best to position yourself for a particular job, give you the “inside scoop” on a firm and share intel like salary information.

Networking, however, isn’t handing out business cards at cocktail parties or asking for favors. Instead, it’s best to have the mindset that you are relationship-building for mutual gain.

Remember that attorneys naturally want to help

Many attorneys say that reaching out feels like an imposition — and it certainly can be if you’re heavy-handed. When you approach with genuine appreciation and curiosity, however, you invite the listener to share their expertise. Plenty of people will be delighted to help you; doing so nurtures all parties’ networks, and fostering growth is intrinsically rewarding. You and your contacts have a shared passion for your work; the pleasure of helping others in the industry is a natural outgrowth of that dedication.

Ask for insights rather than jobs

Asking about job openings almost always falls flat because it tends to come across as transactional, not mutually beneficial. Instead, ask open-ended questions. If the person knows you and your work, solicit their thoughts on where they see you excelling. You could also ask their opinion on where you should be looking or who might know more about a particular company or job. If they offer a contact, you can request an introduction.

Make the relationship a two-way street

Don’t forget the mutuality of the conversation. Make an authentic attempt to learn about the other person, and if you have a relevant resource to offer, do so freely — whether it’s work-related or about a shared interest or hobby. Approach each conversation ready to share your time and talents, and many will respond in kind, even if you’re talking to someone more senior than yourself.

Lastly, keep the relationship going. Circle back to your contact with updates, and be on the lookout for support you could offer them in the future. As you build mutuality into your network, your transition team will grow.