Skills to succeed: Networking 01 August 2018 Patricia López Aufranc, a partner at Marval, O'Farrell & Mairal in Argentina, outlines how to succeed in networking, in the second installment in a mini-series of tips for aspiring young lawyers. Networking is the art of developing and maintaining a network of contacts for mutual benefit. Social capital is the value that an individual obtains from resources available through his or her social networks: information, opportunities, orientation, support. In today’s world, networking is not merely an option but a necessity. For some, networking may not come easily. Don’t worry, networking is a skill that can be acquired and improved by adopting certain practices and committing the time. Be strategic and methodical. The sooner you start, the sooner it will become second nature. If you feel uncomfortable, find a higher purpose that motivates you. Focus on the collective benefit of making connections (for example, visibility for your organisation, helping your clients, supporting colleagues, increasing the presence of women or minorities). Create your personal brand. Your reputation is your most important asset and can determine your future. Remember there is no second chance to make a good first impression. Periodically survey your digital presence. Regularly update information and correct inaccuracies. Make sure your profiles and content are aligned with the image you want to project. Do not post anything that you would not like the whole world to see. Remember posts on the internet will always be there. Build up your success team: sponsors, coaches, role models, friends and allies. Reach out and find your champions; they are your core network. Be a champion to others. Create an effective database. The more information you include about your contacts the more useful the network will be (for example, gender, when a person’s name is not easily recognisable; name of spouse and children; birthdays; where you met; hobbies or other interests; and, most importantly, connections to others in your network). Map your present network. Establish goals. Develop a plan. Keep a record of your networking actions until it comes naturally. Consider networking part of your daily job and a cornerstone of your career development. Always have networking on your to do list. At the outset, don’t forget to network with people of your generation. They will grow with you. Choose your contacts well. An individual may keep solid relationships with about 150 people at most. It is better to be the best connected than the most connected. The quality of the contacts and how they are used is what matters, not the quantity. Contacting people is easier than it seems. Staying in touch and developing a relationship is the true challenge! Periodically review your database to decide whether you should reconnect with someone to keep the relationship alive. Regularly reach out to new people, become involved in multidisciplinary teams and a wide range of activities to expand your network. Think broadly about what you can offer. Seasoned professionals are comfortable giving advice, mentorship, sharing information or connecting people. Identifying valuable contributions may be more difficult at the outset of a career. However, there are always things to offer if you think outside the box. I remember a young lawyer who had been a junior tennis champion who made himself known at the senior level by regularly coaching partners. Another was always “on call” when someone needed assistance with social media or technological challenges. If nothing else comes to mind, show gratitude or recognition, particularly in front of others (“X is a great mentor/role model/has been decisive in my career advancement”). Genuine expressions of gratitude enhance the other person’s reputation and may be greatly appreciated. Two-way street relationships are the most meaningful. During an initial meeting, retain subjects or details that will give you leads to reconnect and allow you to pick up the conversation. Writing something on the back of a business card to remind you of the person is always helpful. Capture this information in your contact database also. It will allow you to add a “personal touch” to your communications. Have a follow up plan (eg, send an email saying that you enjoyed the encounter, send an article you promised or data on a book you recommended, suggest to have coffee or lunch to continue a conversation that came up). Identify common interests as a means to enlarge your network. Find some common interest, and barriers disappear. Analyse how your interest and goals align with the people you meet or want to meet. Those interests and goals can become the grounds to develop a relationship. A family law lawyer that I knew was entrusted with important matters by dog walkers he met at the park while walking his dog! Shared interests create trust. Be present, connect, stay connected. Congratulate people on achievements, send greetings for birthdays, share interesting articles and notices of events. Develop a reputation as a “giver” and not as a “taker”. Strive to find opportunities to help others and to share your experience and knowledge. In the long run, giving yields returns. Professional associations, sports, cultural, religious and community activities have unlimited potential for making contacts. NGOs are excellent places to meet highprofile individuals. Working together in a context where one shares values generally leads to deep and rewarding relationships. Join, participate, lead. Get involved! If you are going to have a passive role, don’t bother. The key to building a network is having diverse sources of contacts. That way you can access the contacts of your contacts. “Just like me” networks are the least effective, because those people probably share similar information and have similar views. The broadest and more diverse networks have much farther reach and are more valuable. Be a contact broker. Strive to introduce people with common interests. Build relationships. Exchange information. Identify the contact brokers in your network. Ask for introductions. Take advantage of technology. Cyber social networks, emails, and newsletters are fantastic tools when properly used. Establish a strategy (eg, targets, content, forums). Stand out, be brief, visual, interesting and original. When appropriate, include pictures, graphics or short videos. Do not overexpose. Always remember the fine line between being present and being annoying. However, if you are going to participate, be consistent. Success largely depends on how one establishes relationships and the position one occupies in one’s relationship groups. It is not only what we know but who we know! Network effectively both inside the organisation for which you work (ie, acquire visibility, become the person to go to, obtain good assignments, promotions) and outside (eg, develop a reputation as an expert, bring business, etc). Join existing networks and/or create your own. Connect disparate groups of people. Stimulate collaboration and reciprocal trust. Periodically assess your network to determine whether it is narrow or broad and whether it should be redirected to align better with your goals. This may entail reducing or increasing your participation depending on your goals and suitability. Add value, have credibility, exceed expectations, remember to add a “personal touch”. Do not lose focus. Do not bite off more than you can chew. Relationships take time and must be nurtured over time. Each has its own rhythm. Don’t be impatient. Be grateful and thankful. Don’t expect immediate returns. Networking is a long-term commitment. My golden rule of networking is this: Networking is about giving. Receiving is a secondary benefit. I wish you great success!