When I say the word ‘networking’ – what image instantly pops into your head? I would lay a large bet that it would be something like this:
Going OUT to an event, where you shake hands and meet strangers
Am I right?
In this blog post, I’m not talking about networking, or the ‘working the room’ type of networking that people associate with the word networking, I’m talking about effective business networking. The type of business networking which will help you grow your influence within the firm and through your desired market place. My definition, (well I did write the FT Guide To Business Networking) of effective business networking is,
The process of finding, building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships
In my masterclass, I talk about building your network for life. So many partners have said to me that the number one reason why professionals find their careers stalling is that neglect their network.
What I see happening is when professionals, such as lawyers, accountants and consultants, think about their networking, they only focus on the ‘finding’ and collecting contacts bit of networking. Very often the building and maintaining part of effective networking is ignored. None more so that your internal network. Which means that if you turn some of your networking time and attention from going out and working the room to spending time with people in your firm, you can reap large benefits. For the rest of this article, I am going to focus on the reasons why it is just, if not more important to focus your networking activities on your internal firm network.
1. Helps build a support team around you
Most people associate networking with either building your profile or winning business. Actually there are 4 reasons why lawyers, accountants and consultants network. One of these reasons, which is often forgotten and not valued, is it helps you build a supportive community around you. In ‘how to make partner and still have a life‘ and this blog post we talk about the importance of having a support team around you.
2. It helps you find cross selling opportunities
Have you noticed that so many firms at the moment are focused on finding ways to cross sell and increase the client’s level of engagement with the firm? You will only be able to find opportunities for other parts of the business from your client portfolio or external network, if you know what the other parts of the firm do, and when is the best time to bring them in. If you start regularly giving referrals out to others parts of the firm, that’s going to get you noticed for all the right reasons. But you wouldn’t be able to do this unless you have a good internal firm network.
3. It helps you be visible when you ask to be considered for partnership
Most partnerships still vote on the candidates who have put themselves up for admittance into the partnership. If you are going to get the yes from all of your partners, they need to know who you are, and why you are a valuable asset to the firm. (See point two about cross selling opportunities) If you are thinking about going for partnership, how about downloading our FREE guide to writing your business plan, an essential part of your business case for partnership.
4. It will help you find the right mentor to champion your cause and career
In our research for how to make partner and still have a life, we discovered that your internal firm mentor was perhaps the most important person to have in your support team. (see who should be in your support team). If you are well networked within your firm, you will know who is the right person to ask to champion you in your career within the firm.
To help you get the most from your mentor, download our free guide to getting the most from your mentoring relationship.
5. It helps you establish your client portfolio
This is probably the biggest reason to be well networked within your current firm. It’s not an external client who will give you your first big break to establish yourself within a niche. It will be a member of your current firm, someone that has got to know and trust you and see what you are doing. It is this niche and specialism which will be the trigger for you to build up a profitable client portfolio of your own. If you think that the networks of the senior professionals within your firm, they are exponentially bigger than your own network. Whilst you have the non-trivial matters of chargeable time targets to hit, your partners whose role it is to bring in work, will probably be your first provider of referrals for your own specialism or niche.
6. It gets you more opportunities to promote yourself
Promoting yourself takes many forms, but speaking and writing is still two of the best ways to promote you and what you do. It is likely that your first speaking and writing opportunities will not come directly to you, but via a suggestion of a partner in your firm. Do your partners know what speaking and writing opportunities to suggest you for?
How are you tending to your internal firm network?