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Networking tip 12: Treat every introduction as a thrill

Treat every introduction as a thrill. Do this quick exercise: Pretend that your best friend—whom you haven’t seen for ages—is about to walk through the door. How do you feel?  Excited? Happy? Lit up? Now try evoking that same emotion before you meet someone new. Admittedly, you’re not going to actually feel toward that person as you do with your best friend—that would be a strong symptom of insanity—but you should still try to exude the same energy. An enthusiastic greeting creates instant rapport and makes a powerful first impact.

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Networking tip 11: Have the right attitude

In my last blog I talked about "working a room" as part of your networking endeavours. So to follow on from that....

The first step to working a room is attitude: You should either feel happy to be there or be able to convey a decent impression of the same. So get into that mindset, or you might as well go home (indeed, I would urge you to do so)!

We’ve allbeen introduced to people who would frankly rather be somewhere else. Their eyes are glazed over, and as you talk they look over your shoulder; their eye contact is nonexistent and they seem to begrudge every syllable that escapes them. They seem distracted, bored, or annoyed. It’s just human nature to boomerang such negativity right back at them! Their behavior is probably the result of their own discomfort, but regardless of the reason, the result is the same: No connection is generated, and the only impression created or cemented is likely to be negative.

So no matter what, make sure that you aren’t the person appearing detached or fed up. And if surrounded by these unfortunates, just keep moving until you find a more comfortable position. 

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Networking tip 10: First impressions

If you want to expand your network, this inevitably means at some point "working a room" and doing this well depends on making a positive first impression. You convey who you are (your personal brand) the moment you enter a room, so remind yourself in advance of what you’re trying to project and make any necessary adjustments to mood or appearance. Body language and voice make up a big part of first impressions, so on entering a room concentrate first on maintaining good posture, exhibiting relaxed alertness, and communicating a warm and friendly tone. You want to convey feel-good factors: positivity, smiles, energy, and enthusiasm. Invoking those things will create the right chemistry for a high-impact impression.

Also, you should think about being your brand at all times, not just when engaged in conversation. You never know who may be observing or listening! At a conference, I once met a suave, elegant, and impressive man, with whom I had a lengthy discussion. Yet later on, while trying to find the ladies’ room (that well-known parlor game), I turned a corner only to encounter him shouting abusively into his mobile phone. This inevitably altered my perception of the authenticity of his wonderful brand!

Don't make this mistake, and convey what you want to present at all times!  You never know who you're making a (first) impression upon.

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Networking tip 9: Remember that people's positions change and grow

Suppose you look at your network and think that nobody there is of real value. Perhaps the people in your inner circle have no current relationship to your area of law, or perhaps—at least at this point—they are still too junior. Yet someone who might not appear helpful today can become helpful in the future. When talking to lawyers about their clients, I hear hundreds of stories about work that resulted from unanticipated circumstances or unexpected people, and it’s quite common for someone in a network to move unexpectedly into a position requiring legal services.

Likewise, remember that people who may currently be valuable to you might not necessarily remain so. People can lose their jobs, or they can move to a company where you have a conflict of interest. Don’t rely too heavily on any one person in your network, because things so often shift and change. Preparing the groundwork (just in case!) is part of a mature approach to building your career.

If you do find yourself in a situation where a previously valued contact can offer you little or nothing, I do hope that you will not commit one of the worst of all networking sins: displacing this person from your network. Never ditch someone who has been loyal to you simply because of a change in circumstances. You might as well wear a T-shirt proclaiming, “Once someone’s no longer beneficial to me, I no longer give a s**t!”

I’ve watched this happen many times. Frequently it occurs not because the lawyer is actively unkind but because he feels that he must, in such a case, prioritize replacing the financial value of the connection, even though this means completely neglecting the once-important contact. However, this is a mistake on many levels. First, do you really want to be known for treating people like machines, to be chucked away after they’ve outlasted their usefulness? (Not exactly a positive notch on the “belt” of your brand!) Second, if a person has been valuable to you in the past, then clearly you have established rapport with him or her, and to create that level of trust with someone new will take considerable effort for a far less certain result. And third, fickle fate may choose eventually to reward your former contact with a new or better position, and you really won’t want to be a “former friend” at that time!

My colleague and I some years ago together built up a relationship with “Kevin”, who over many years advanced in the client organization to a level where he was able to engage legal services for the projects he ran. Kevin continued to give both my colleague and me lots of work, and I believe he considered us friends as well as business associates. 

Eventually, though, Kevin was made redundant as the result of an international restructuring. He took this as an opportunity to change career direction, which meant that he was no longer involved in engaging legal counsel. I stayed in touch with him, however, and was able to help Kevin in his new venture by providing some contacts. Years later, when he moved into yet another position where he was once again in need of legal advice, he immediately contacted me. As I was in the midst of transitioning out of practicing, I suggested to Kevin that he instead contact my previous colleague—his friend, or so I thought. Kevin’s response was an emphatic, “I will never give him work again!” It turned out that this had nothing to do with my former colleague’s law skills: It was simply that, once Kevin was out of work, my colleague no longer gave him priority. According to Kevin, my colleague, who had previously been extremely courteous and attentive, didn’t even bother to return his phone calls!

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Networking tip 8: Enjoy your network

Although we are technically talking about business, the reality is that networking is about relationships, and is based upon exactly the same principles as friendship. Thus, each networking relationship will be subtly different from every other, and each person in your network will possess his own individual attributes, strengths, influence, and aura. However, each one should be someone you respect, trust, and enjoy, and the relationship, not the potential benefit, should be the driver.

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Networking tip 7: Pass along compliments

It's now February and the New Year is no longer new.  However, I will follow on with January's "Networking in the New Year" theme and continue with my networking tips.  It's now tip number seven and this one follow on from my last blog entry which urged you to always compliment and congratulate people, no matter how small the occasion.  

But passing on compliments can be even more effective than giving them directly. It can also provide the opportunity to get in touch with someone. Think about it: How would it make you feel if your colleague said, “I was having lunch with Andrew on Wednesday and he was telling me what a great job you did on [whatever it was] and how superb you were to work with.” Somehow this makes you feel even better than Andrew’s telling you himself! Now Andrew and your colleague, the messenger, have both gone up in your book. So don’t hold back: If you hear something good about someone, pass it on!

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