Whether you love your job or are looking for a change, proactively investing in your professional development will prepare you for career transitions. The following tips will help you seize new opportunities when they present themselves and create opportunities when you need to do so.
Attend local events.
Networking for networking’s sake can be awkward, but meeting people with a common interest can diminish the anxiety. When your alumni association invites you to a reception, lecture, or other event in your area, go! You will meet people from classes other than your own who share an affinity for your alma mater. Update your contact information in your schools’ alumni directories. If fellow alumni need a lawyer or would like to refer a colleague, they will know how and where to reach you. Let your career services office know that you are willing to return to participate in a panel discussion, especially if you are local. Not only will you provide a greatly needed service, but you will build your resume and your confidence.
For example, one of my colleagues was a committed member of her alma mater’s alumni board who regularly attended events and meetings. When the dean needed to hire a new alumni relations officer, she was the first person he called. She was not looking to leave her practice, but a new career path opened because of her involvement with her law school alumni association.
When was the last time you updated your resume or your LinkedIn profile? Did you give a presentation recently? Were you quoted in the newspaper? Did you win a big motion or close a large deal? Take some time to update your job search materials. If you are trying to be discreet about your job search, a sudden flurry of activity or overhaul of your online persona can be a red flag. Consistent updates let those in your circles of influence know that you are an expert in a particular area and are actively engaged in sharpening your professional skills.
Join a professional organization relating to your career.
Joining a bar association is a great way to start. Do not stop at just paying the dues. Getting involved with a section is even better. It broadens the group of people who are familiar with you and who can attest to your ability to do good work promptly. Write an article. Volunteer to organize a panel discussion or CLE session. Chair a committee. You will make lifelong friends while also bolstering your professional reputation.
Also consider joining a trade association affiliated with your clients’ industries or attending events sponsored by such organizations. For example, if you frequently represent newspaper publishers, join the Society of Professional Journalists or attend the annual meeting or local chapter meetings. You will demonstrate a sincere interest in your clients’ business, gain their trust, and further expand your network of potential clients and employers.
Make time for non-law related activities.
As important as building your professional network is, do not neglect involvement in your community. Being active with your place of worship, a community service organization, your children’s extracurricular activities, or a non-profit board can be beneficial professionally. A byproduct of such involvement is meeting other lawyers, and potential clients or contacts that can spread the word about your practice.
Stay in touch!
Send holiday cards, write an email from time to time to your former professors, and introduce people to others who may share an interest or practice area. The goodwill you build by genuinely cultivating connections will flow back to you when you most need it and when you least expect it.
Avoid the temptation to wait until a crisis hits to try to implement these strategies. Every one of your personal contacts needs to know exactly what you do, what you enjoy about it, and what you would ultimately like to do. By sharing your goals, you can build your own board of advocates who can persuasively endorse your candidacy for positions and help you reach your professional goals.