One of biggest obstacles to advancement professional career women face is that they have not built a core network of peer support. Often, their closest friendships were established long before they became professionals. Is that true for you?
Unfortunately, as you grow in your legal career and start planning your next level breakthrough, you will likely find you do not have the kind of support you need from other women who are on a professional journey and trajectory similar to yours. You may not have anyone in your immediate sphere that you can really rely on for the right advice at the right time to achieve the right results.
Many of my clients are at the very top of their profession. They are Partners of International law firms; Judges; lawyers who are also entrepreneurs running thriving businesses beyond the law; lawyers who coach other lawyers; and even a few non-lawyers who are Director-level executives.
I am always astounded by the fact that, though these women are very intelligent and quite successful, many have not taken the time to build a powerful and influential network. Unfortunately, some found themselves at one time or another needing the support of an empowered network that simply did not exist for them. Their journeys were much harder because they did not have a community of support they could call on when they needed it most, like during a merger, layoff, relocation or some other major life event. Has that ever happened to you? Know this,
Your network, or lack thereof, can and often will impact your net worth.
In fact, building a strong network is one of the most important things you can do to support your professional advancement and long-term career success. An influential network can open doors to new opportunities, help you build visibility, and foster connections with leading industry influencers.
So, how about you?
* Have you built a network of strong professional relationships you can call on for assistance, support and good advice when you need it most?
* Do you engage in network building activities regularly, intentionally, and with a purpose?
* Are you a part of an active, informed and trustworthy community of like-minded professionals to be ‘in network’ with, share successes and explore solutions to challenges?
If not, I suggest you begin to do so immediately.
Here are 5 ways you can build a strong, powerful and influential network:
CHANGE YOUR NETWORK BUILDING MINDSET
I often hear about how boring, frustrating, annoying, and painful networking is. After a long day of work, you would much rather go home and connect with the people you love in the place you love than being out, trying to think about something interesting to say to a room full of people you don’t know and don’t necessarily have any interest in getting to know. I get it. I do!
However, in the rapidly changing world of law, small and mid-sized firms are being swallowed up by behemoth firms and with the ever-increasing threat of advancing technologies being able to do research and analysis faster and with greater accuracy, the time to build a strong network is NOW. You may need that network sooner than you realize.
You must change your network building mindset. There are far more ways to build your network than what is traditionally considered ‘networking.’ You can create your own network building style. There is no one way to do it.
NETWORK WITH INTENTION
Networking doesn’t have to be dreadful. It can actually be interesting and enjoyable. Try this. Make a list of people you know and whom you need to know to build a powerful and reliable network. Then schedule one lunch or coffee a week with someone on your list. It helps to start with people you genuinely respect and admire. Ask them about their life journey and the most interesting case or project they are working on. Share the same about yourself. Ask about their goals for the next 5 years and share yours. Building a network is really about building relationships. You can build a powerful network one person at a time.
NURTURE THE RELATIONSHIPS YOU HAVE
You want to increase your network by getting to know people you don’t know well yet. However, it is equally important to nurture the relationships you currently have. Former colleagues, bosses, and alums already know the value you offer and can recommend you for new and interesting opportunities.
You might want to alternate your weekly network building meetings between new and existing connections.
TRADE ON THE VALUE OF YOUR SOCIAL CAPITAL
All good and healthy relationships are mutually beneficial and have trust at their core. Building trust is a two-way process. Therefore, think about ways you can make yourself available to be a connector for others. Do you know people who know people? If so, your existing network is a highly valuable professional asset. It is a form of professional currency. Like real currency, it can be used by you on behalf of others. During those lunches and coffees, while intentionally building your network, look for opportunities to help build the networks of others.
Sharing your network is a way of building trust and investing in your own network and doing so will pay future dividends.
When the time comes and you need to leverage your network, all of the time, trust, and goodwill you invested in nurturing those relationships will be available to you. Do not hesitate to leverage it.
Studies have shown that professional women often hesitate to ask for support, referrals, and connections when they need them most. Please resist the urge to fall into that pattern. If you approach building your network as a mutually beneficial endeavor where you offered to give what you were seeking, it will be so much easier to make the ask when you need to.
JOIN A COMMUNITY OF LIKE-MINDED PROFESSIONAL WOMEN
Being a part of a curated community provides you with an instant, built-in network. For instance, there are various bar associations, women’s organizations and subject matter interest groups. There are thousands of groups on LinkedIn. You may belong to one or several of them but if you aren’t actively creating or sharing content or participating in conversations, the massive networking opportunity you have on this very platform may not be serving you as powerfully as it could be.
Then there are private and exclusive communities such as small group masterminds and larger monthly online mentoring, coaching and training groups.
The relationships you make time to develop and nurture now will serve you incredibly well in the future
About Lakeshia Ekeigwe:
She specializes in coaching and consulting women lawyers from a whole person perspective so they not only have successful careers but experience happy, thriving personal lives as well.