Most lawyers are lousy at networking. They're afraid of it and they avoid it. Why? Because they're introverts.
So says Richard DelliVeneri, a lawyer and career consultant in the Office of Career Services at the University of Denver.
Aversion to networking is a problem, DelliVeneri says, because "70 percent or more of available jobs are never advertised. "They are part of the hidden job market that is best accessed by networking."
Two separate studies of lawyers using the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) have found that most lawyers draw their energy from "the inner world of their thoughts, memories and feelings, typically being private and contained and preferring to communicate by writing."
In 1993, Researcher Larry Richard gave 3,014 attorneys the MBTI test and found that 57 percent expressed a preference for introversion. And the Atlas of Type Tables published by the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, shows that 59 percent of lawyers in their database prefer introversion.
Nonetheless, DelliVeneri urges University of Denver law students to overcome their fears. He assures them that networking is not the same as schmoozing.
"The popular image depicts a glib and cunning person cruising a party with a fist full of business cards ready to pounce on an unwitting victim with a hard-sell message of shameless self-promotion," he notes. "This is not networking."
True networking involves mutually beneficial exchange of information, he says. He tells students that when they seek ideas and information they should be thinking of ways to return the favor.
DelliVeneri also advises practice. Read books on networking. Check out websites on the topic. Rehearse with family and friends. Attend networking workshops. He offers eight tips for those who would rather have gum surgery than network:
Always be prepared. Be ready with your personal "infomercial" when you are telling a new acquaintance about yourself. Can you tell in no more than two minutes "who you are, what you're good at and what you're looking for?"
Ask for advice and information. "People feel put off by someone who asks for a job. But they're generally receptive and forthcoming when someone expresses the confidence and trust to ask for their advice and treat them as a source of valuable information"
Reach out. Identify communities you want to be a part of and find ways to meet new people in them.
Be patient. If you don't get the results you want immediately don't despair. "Your networking is building important relationships that over time will help you achieve your goal."
Offer your help. Look for ways to offer helpful information to those who give their time and advice to you.
Whenever possible, network face to face.
Always say thank you. The best way is via a note through the U.S. mail. "It shows a level of personal attention that just doesn't come through in an e-mail message."
Commit to networking for the long term.
"If many lawyers and law students do have a reticence for networking stemming from a personality preference, they must make an effort to overcome that reluctance," says DelliVeneri, who put in more than 25 years as a lawyer for banks, the U.S. Treasury Department and for the Colorado attorney general's office.
"Networking is too important to ignore or fear. As a skill, it must be learned, practiced and refined. Anyone can do it. It just takes time and a commitment to working with people in mutually beneficial ways."
DelliVeneri has written a paper on networking for the Office of Career Services at the University of Denver College of Law. Dick Jones Communications will be happy to send it to you if you would like to see it.