By now you should have already attended at least three networking events and reached out to at least three people who referred you business last year.
If the prior sentence is at all familiar to the language you use inside your own head, I have two words of advice—please stop.
Specifically, please stop thinking this way. Lawyers tend to be perfectionists, and perfectionists tend to come up with goals that require perfect executions. For example, rather than setting the goal of attending more impactful networking events, they tend to set goals that require them to attend at least one networking event per week. This, of course, is to make up for the fact that they didn’t attend enough networking events last year. Nor did they work out enough or do the other things that are typically the subject of failed New Year’s resolutions.
Building a network of contacts requires regular and sincere attention. It doesn’t, however, require robotic regularity. You can miss a day or even a week and make up for it the next. People are generally forgiving because they too are busy and imperfect.
Moreover, it is particularly hard to tackle an ongoing problem and break it down into daily steps. As a consultant to lawyers, I know that it is often easier for my clients to respond to networking emails in batches than do it every day. And in this context networking emails includes everything from the LinkedIn invitations you haven’t responded to the lunch invitations that are sitting in your email inbox to the email you promised to send to an important potential client but haven’t gotten around to it yet.
Trying to be perfect everyday will inevitably lead you to fail, and that single day of failure will cause anxiety and guilt, which in turn will make it even more likely that you won’t meet your attorney networking goals the following day. So please give up the illusion and burden that you need to be perfect to grow a successful and thriving network of contexts. You are much more likely to be successful if you set aside 10-15 minutes on your calendar several times a week and get to as many networking emails or phone calls as you can during that time. Whatever you don’t get to in one session–and there will always be leftovers–you will get to the next time around.
One final tip: Building a network is easier when you have an accountability buddy; you help them keep on track with their goals and they do the same for you. The accountability buddy can be a lawyer down the hall, your administrative assistant (trust me, they already know you aren’t perfect), or even a business consultant.
Networking is important, but it’s not like oxygen or water. So please stop stressing over it as if a single missed day or week is actually life threatening.