Intentionally at the Right Place at the Right Time
Miriam Bamberger, CPCC, and Heather Bradley, CPCC, are the co-founders of The Flourishing Company, which helps emerging professionals sharpen their leadership skills to generate immediate and lasting changes in their ability to successfully manage complex work relationships. For additional information, visit: www.TheFlourishingCompany.com.
Throughout 2003, MCCA® is initiating an integrated strategy to assist members in taking responsibility for their professional development. This article is the first in a series that will address a collection of specific skills to assist members in proactively managing their own careers. Each article will be followed by a supporting tele-class to delve further into the specific skill.
This article and the class are built on The Flourishing Process, as depicted in Figure 1:
|What do you want?
||What choices do you need to make?
||What steps do you need to take to make it happen?
The model above is universal in that it provides structure and direction for understanding and addressing any set of circumstances. This series of articles will demonstrate how to apply this model in a variety of professional situations. While this model is simple to understand, it can be tricky to put into place and maintain as life and work demands distract us.
At MCCA's 3rd Annual Creating Pathways to Diversity® conference, speaker after speaker stressed that high-quality legal work is, at best, a mandatory minimum for a successful career, but certainly not sufficient. Those who are most successful have learned that success comes from more than just the technical side of the job. Effective networking is a necessity, providing professional support, critical information, and career guidance.
So what, exactly, is networking? Networking is interacting for mutual support. By understanding your purpose for each networking encounter, you're more likely to be in the right place at the right time and get more out of the interaction. This article will focus on identifying your purpose or agenda for your networking, and how to create a personal strategy to achieve your purpose.
What's Strategic Networking?
Being strategic involves envisioning the future and taking the necessary steps to create that future. Strategic networking, then, is gaining clarity on your goals for these informal interactions, making choices about how you want to achieve your goals, and taking action. While it is tempting to jump into action, it is essential to understand where you are now and where you want to go. Successful networking is not an accident; it is a carefully constructed and executed plan. The Flourishing Process provides a method for creating your best networking opportunities.
Step 1 – Clarity
Before you decide which events to mark on your calendar, you must first understand your intentions: 'Where you want to go." Ask yourself: What do you want more of from your networking efforts? Do you want to give something or get something? Some motivations to network are more obvious than others. The goal is to become clear about what you want to achieve, so you can create the networking strategy that will work best for you. Some common reasons to network include:
- Finding a Mentor/Being a Mentor
- Career Development
- Building Your Support Community
- Business Development
- Finding New Ways to Work
Step 2 – Choice
Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. Once you are clear about what you want to get from your networking efforts, you are in the best position to make choices when blocking time on your calendar.
Choosing What to Do
Your time is limited. What is the best investment of your time to achieve your goals? Where do you start?
Start by looking at your current activities. How effective are they in helping you achieve your goals? If you are satisfied with them, continue doing what you're doing. If you are not satisfied with your present course, you have four choices:
- You can do more of certain things, such as attending more law school alumni events.
- You can do less of certain things – deliberately decide to reduce or discontinue activities, such as limiting the number of bar association receptions you attend.
- You can start to do things you are not doing at all today, like making presentations to constituents in your client base.
- You can stop doing certain things all together, such as attending events that you don't enjoy and don't support goals for networking.
In evaluating each choice, ask yourself: What return do you expect on this investment? What are the potential consequences of taking an action or failing to take it?
Step 1 – CLARITY
What do you want to accomplish with networking?
Step 2 – CHOICE
What choices do you need to make to accomplish those goals?
Step 3 – ACTION
What specific actions do you need to take?
What I need is:
- Career Development.
- Support Community.
- Business Development.
- New Ways to Work.
- Other ____________________
The top choices I need to make are:
In the next 90 days, I will:
Figure 2: My Personal Networking Strategy
The Impact of Choice
Subjective factors are much more controllable than you think. You may not be able to change your circumstances, but you can change the way you 'approach" the circumstances, altering the quality of your experience. Successful people think differently from unsuccessful people. You become what you think about most of the time.
For example, if you go to a networking event because your boss insists that you go, chances are you will be frustrated and accomplish little. By contrast, when you attend an event because it will advance your networking strategy, you are more likely to enjoy the experience itself, which will have a positive impact on the people you meet. In turn, you are more likely to meet your networking objectives.
Step 3 – Action
Now that you've decided what you want to accomplish and how you want to invest your limited time, identify the specific steps you need to take to make it happen. Break your goals into discrete tasks with deadlines. It's helpful to look at a limited timeframe, such as a 90-day period, so you don't become overwhelmed by possibilities. A chart like the one in Figure 2 above can help you track your progress and update your personal strategy over time.
Networking is one of the most important skills legal professionals need to master and manage for career success. When you understand specifically what you want to gain from your networking efforts, you can make better choices about which opportunities deserve your time and energy. Subsequently, your networking experiences will become more rewarding and enjoyable. With a balanced personal strategy that meets your individual needs, you can easily move into action and reap the benefits.
Miriam Bamberger and Heather Bradley are the cofounders of The Flourishing Company, which helps emerging professionals sharpen their leadership skills to generate immediate and lasting changes in their ability to successfully manage complex work relationships. For additional information, visit: www.TheFlourishingCompany.com.
MCCA's Professional Development Forum
Take your career to the next level. As a companion to this series of articles, MCCA® is sponsoring six interactive Professional Development Forums via teleconference to reinforce the skills discussed and help you tailor them to your unique career needs.
The teleconference format allows you to participate from the comfort of your own office. Join the authors for the launch of the first Professional Development Forum on February 26, 2003, from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
From the January/February 2003 issue of Diversity & The Bar®