Networking – you know you should be doing it but it’s sometimes hard to drag yourself out to events even when you know your nametag is there waiting for you. Networking is an important step in building a book of business and, as we mentioned in our previous blog, growing your own contacts and book of business can provide job security in the long run.

That uncomfortable feeling you have about networking is universal.

In fact, the feeling that people have after networking was recently studied by a number of professors who looked specifically at “instrumental networking” where the main purpose of the interaction is to advance your career as opposed to personal networking where the goal is to pursue a connection based on friendship. Their study found that instrumental networking actually makes people feel dirty and leads them to think about taking a shower or brushing their teeth. In one experiment, participants were asked to recall instances of instrumental and personal networking and were then asked to complete word fragments, including W_ _ H, SH_ _ ER, and S_ _P. Participants who had recalled instances of instrumental networking completed these fragments as “wash”, “shower” and “soap” twice as frequently as those who recalled personal networking experiences.

Many articles suggest managing this feeling by thinking about networking as an opportunity to share something you have with the people you approach. Instead of thinking about networking as others doing a favour for you, focus on what you have to offer: it may be insights on market trends, upcoming legislative changes in a particular area, or even just a shared interested or hobby. At large networking events people are often relieved to find themselves in conversations with others with shared interests and making connections on a more personal level can open the door to “business” discussions down the road.

Also, don’t forget that you don’t need to be networking with the CEO of the company; it is appropriate (and likely easier) for you to find your counterpart at a company and focus on building that relationship. Just as you are working your way up the ladder at your law firm, your counterpart is also working their way up the corporate chain and staying in touch with these contacts can pay off over time. Networking rarely results in the instant conversion of a contact into a client but instead requires a long term investment of time and effort.

Another key part of networking is the graceful exit.

It’s not enough to think about all of your conversation starters without considering your wrap up. Learn to pick up on social cues such as when the other person starts gazing around the room behind you or hints that they are going to find some food or a drink. Let the person know it was nice talking to them and that you don’t want to take up their whole night and move on to your next conversation.

Finally, here at The Heller Group we aim to bring you more than just advice – we focus on results. So instead of the typical blog that just offers networking tips, we also offer you an opportunity to put these tips into action: join us on March 26th at Young Women in Law’s 5th Annual Charity Gala in support of Covenant House. We’ll be there and are ready to network with you. Click here to register for this event.

Jennifer is a Recruitment and Communications Consultant with The Heller Group. She is actively involved in the recruitment and placement of lawyers into law firms and corporations and is also responsible for the corporate communications related to The Heller Group. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys travelling, curling and spending time with friends and family.

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