We have always been told networking is important in life, because it is “all about who you know.” This phrase always made me roll my eyes especially in law school when those extremely extroverted students would LOVE to go to events and mingle with alumni and attorneys. I always found networking awkward and uncomfortable.
Most people aren’t aware, but I am actually quite introverted and would prefer not to be engaging with people. I enjoyed sitting in the corner people watching, but never wanted to join in the conversation. If I was forced to join a conversation, I would play the part marvelously and turn on the charm. After all, I was represented by an acting and modeling agent for half of my life so I was no stranger to the forced schmooze.
Networking Pays Off
However, I never truly saw the importance of networking until my 3L year in law school. I was the Chairwoman for the 1st Annual Sports Law Symposium at Texas A&M University School of Law. My job was to make sure we had speakers lined up and attendees to fill the seats. During this process I forced myself to talk with the presenters and stayed in contact with them after the symposium and even hand wrote thank you letters to them. This turned out to be rewarding and fulfilling for me and I landed a legal role right out of school to work on projects for Unity Hunt, a Lamar Hunt family business. Yes, that Hunt family – hint hint – they recently won a Super Bowl. Their dad also coined the phrase Super Bowl, so there’s a full-circle moment.
After school, however, networking got harder for me because I was balancing a full-time schedule, a commute, and other adult responsibilities. It was hard to get off work at a reasonable hour to catch a happy hour or to take a lunch break to drive to an event. Also, I don’t drink at all so it was somewhat awkward to turn down drink after drink and explain why I don’t drink. It was a hassle that made me feel extremely uncomfortable, but I knew networking was important.
Utilize Resources Wisely
LinkedIn was something I didn’t utilize well or often (this is not an advertisement, but rather my experience). Little did I know how valuable LinkedIn can be if you use it effectively. During quarantine I made it a point to network vigorously to expand my pool of professionals, but also to get me out of my comfort zone. It also helped that I was laid off from my job right before quarantine due to “elimination of my full-time position, because it is seasonal but someone else will be doing your job right now.” That is a whole other story, but turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Tyrona Heath from LinkedIn recently spoke to Fashion Scholarship Fund scholars about our LinkedIn profiles. It was beyond insightful and helped me to edit my profile to get ready for a stronger networking push in my career. You can read the article here. While this time in history is difficult, virtual networking during a global pandemic is actually quite simple.
I have been able to attend conferences – espnW, Horizon Summit, Seattle Sounders Data Analytics, etc. – I would not have been able to afford or make time to see if they weren’t virtual. Being able to network through LinkedIn has been fantastic. I have learned a few ways to make the situation less awkward as well:
- If you attend an event and find the speaker interesting, then take notes. After the presentation, be sure to connect with them on LinkedIn, but utilize the Add Note button to thank them for their time. In the note also add something specific that caught your eye.
- Don’t be afraid to share someone’s articles or work you find interesting through a LinkedIn post or article. Tag them in the post and thank them for sharing. Gratitude goes a long way.
- Hop on a Zoom call about topics you find interesting. When I first did this I kept my camera off, but over time I started to turn my camera on and engage with the audience. Videos are less awkward for this introvert than having to explain why I don’t drink at a happy hour with a bunch of lawyers.
- If you truly hit it off with a contact then try to commit to having some one-on-one Zoom calls or phone calls to dive deeper into topics you find interesting.
- The best time to network is before you NEED something from someone.
- Join organizations and industry groups now, because many of them are still doing their events virtually and it is a great way to be dropped directly into a group with people from your industry.
Do you have any tips and tricks to network during this time? What have you found to be the best part of virtual networking? What downsides do you face?
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