When you think about networking, I bet you think about going OUT to an event, where you shake hands and meet strangers OR trying to do something on LinkedIN.  Over the years. many partners have told me that the number one reason why professionals like you find your careers stalling is that you neglect your network, including your internal network within the firm So in this blog post, let’s think about effective business networking. The type of business networking that will help you grow your influence within the firm (don’t neglect that internal network!) 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

When professionals like you ( lawyers, accountants, consultants) think about your networking,  you only focus on the ‘finding’ and collecting contacts bit. Very often the building and maintaining part of effective networking is neglected or ignored. None more so than your internal network.  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 huge benefits. Here are 6 reasons why you should 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 my book ‘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 other parts of the firm, that’s going to get you noticed for all the right reasons. But you won’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).

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 are still two of the best ways to promote yourself and what you do. It is likely that your first speaking and writing opportunities will not come directly to you but via a suggestion from a partner in your firm. Do your partners know what speaking and writing opportunities to suggest for you?

7. What’s in Progress to Partner Academy to help build networking skills

Depending on the size of your firm and your service line you will need a strong network across your firm, other offices, and its international network plus your key client accounts, trade bodies, and sector interests

There are entire sections in my Progress to Partner (online) Academy, full of Guides, Recordings and Self-study Courses that will help you learn how to network effectively and win business from your networking activities. One of the self-study courses is alled How to go from coffee… to instructions…To progress your career in practice, you need to move from being a great technician into someone who can be relied upon to win good quality work. The easiest way to do that is to generate referrals via your network. Even if you think you are currently too junior to be spending time daily growing your network, think again. In fact, the earlier you take action in your career to build a network that, in time, will support you to win business, the easier it will be to win your own work when you get to a manager or senior associate position.

By taking this course you will be taken through a step-by-step process to – in time – generate referrals via your network. Find out more about how signing up to my Progress to Partner Academy 

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