Network, Network, Network. That’s what we’re all told about how to find career success. It’s great advice, of course, but the way most people think about “Networking” pretty much guarantees it will fail. To be great networkers, we need to change our mindset; instead of thinking about “Networking”, we need to start trying to make friends.
For a lot of people, Hell will look a lot like a “Networking” reception. After all, they’re pretty much just play dates for adults only with more people scrambling around handing out business cards trying to tell as many people as possible their name and what they do. But think about this, does anyone really remember people they meet at these events? Do people really know enough about those people to send their friends and colleagues their way when they need lawyers. I say no. People don’t refer anyone to someone who threw a business card at them during the 15 minute “Networking” reception at a CLE, people refer people to their friends.
So how do you start making friends? Changing environments is a good way to start. You can’t make good friends at a “Networking” event. You have to put more effort in than that. Go out to lunch, to coffee, to a ball game. Get to know people personally rather than just as colleagues. Hell, once you get to know someone, have them over for dinner. But most important, change your mindset. Stop thinking of people as means to an end; think of them as people you want to get to know; think of them as potential friends.