Part 3 in the Looming Lawyer Layoffs series.
As I’ve pointed out before, most lawyers tend toward introversion, among other personality characteristics. One thing that introverts really despise is having to talk to people all damn day. And the prospect of networking is petrifying to some introverts.
I know, because I am one of those introverts. I need my alone time nearly as much as oxygen. I’m not crazy about weeks like this one, where I’ll be on the phone a lot, interviewing people for an assignment.
So how can introverts get comfortable with networking? First, don’t take it too seriously. And, be grateful for the internet.
When you treat networking as a job-or-death endeavor, you’ll suck at it. There’s just too much at stake, and even the tiniest misstep feels like the end of the world. Plus, even though career counselors push networking and informational interviews like crack dealers, I’m not convinced the type of networking most of them advocate really works for those who are not natural hail-fellow-well-met types.
The best networking — the kind that yields contacts who can help you out — comes from people you know and like already. That’s not to say that you can’t make new, useful connections as you search, but that trying to meet Ms. or Mr. Important through a friend of a friend of a colleague of a colleague is fraught with potential failure.
That’s one reason I really like LinkedIn. Haven’t heard of it? It’s a social networking site for professionals. Actually, it’s like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon on steroids. The nifty LinkedIn software takes some basic information you enter, as much or as little as you like, and figures out who you know that you don’t know you know. For example, my current network stats say I have roughly 1,300 2nd degree (friends of friends) connections. Kind of staggering, isn’t it? Because that 1,300 number is based on 24 direct connections (my friends and acquaintances).
I haven’t taken the plunge yet and upgraded my LinkedIn membership (basic membership is free). But if you’re embarking on a job quest, it’s probably worth it. Paying for the next level of membership entitles you to request introductions (i.e., send more emails to people in your network you don’t know personally), plus get more information on people in your network. (Don’t freak out, you control who can see what kind of info people see about you; there’s tons of privacy protection.)
While eventually you need to actually speak to people, the beauty of LinkedIn is that you don’t have to make those horrid, stuttering cold calls to potential contacts. Email rejection just doesn’t feel as personal — and it allows you to be braver than you might otherwise be.
Give it a whirl. It won’t hurt a bit.