Back to School: Refreshing Networking Best Practices This Fall

By Lauren Banyar Reich

Lauren Banyar Reich – LBR PR

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As recently reported by the The Wall Street Journal, networking can make some people feel, well, icky to say the least. In fact, a Harvard Business School study that WSJ cited showed that even the perceived “moral contamination of networking clouded people’s perceptions so much that they developed a sudden and disproportionate interest in personal-cleansing products such as soap and toothpaste.”

At NJBA we don’t feel icky about networking, but as we all re-up and double down our efforts this Fall, there are some key takeaways from this article that can help us recalibrate our approach to networking in a way that takes us from feeling good about it, to feeling great:

Find creative ways to add value.
I may not know people in a position to hire your law firm today or be able to connect you with a great referral source right out of the gate, but that doesn’t mean my expertise can’t add value to your business in some way. Maybe it’s a LinkedIn audit or a brainstorm about your marketing initiatives. The point is, get creative. See if you can find ways to leverage your experience within your network in a way that is of service and allows people to see who you are and how you approach a business issue.

No asks for a year.
According to the article, this may be seen as a “draconian” method but think about it: when you enter a new networking group and you are focused on making an ask you may lose sight of the true purpose of joining the group: to build connections. Start with the relationship. Get to know your fellow group members as professionals and people. We all want to do business with the people we know, like and trust, so focus on that foundation and the business will follow.

Use a double opt-in.
You may be excited to make a connection between two people within your network, but always remember to give the courtesy of the “double opt in.” Especially as you are getting to know new members of your group, you may not have a full understanding of what a good introduction looks like or the nuances of whom they are looking to meet. What’s more, “if you fail to ask for permission on both sides, you may be missing important facts and essentially giving a homework assignment to busy people—which is the last thing they need, and may harm your standing in the process.” Ask first, then once the green light is given by both, make that connection.

Go all-in on your memberships.
Networking for quantity is not only going to burn you out, it’s going to lower the value of what you bring to each group or organization you belong to. By going a bit more narrow and deep – and stepping up for leadership roles to get more involved – your return on investment in both time and money will be higher. What’s more, in the normal course of meeting people and doing business, always be thinking about how can you make good cross introductions, recruit new members or help introduce people to your groups, different educational opportunities, events, etc.

Many of us still get those back-to-school vibes this time of year, no matter how long it’s been. Couple that with the past 18 months of constrained networking, and it’s probably time to refocus on the task at hand and find new ways to feel great about finding – and providing – value in your network.

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