I am part of a group of professionals interested in learning python, the coding language often associated with data science and machine learning. We work through a free Codecademy program during weekly conference calls held on Fridays at 7:15 am ET (you are welcome to join). Recently, I noticed that the system awarded all of the participants a badge for starting a streak. Since business development is often comprised of a series of incremental efforts that generate momentum, I immediately embraced the idea of connecting daily streaks to obtain results. I even coded the next day just to see if I would get another badge, which I did. Here are five ways to start your own streak.
Learn Something New
Rapid skill development is a key element of standing out in the current market. Take advantage of this trend by making a list of techniques you would like to learn or skills that you want to acquire. Then, identify a free or very low-cost source from which you can obtain that knowledge, such as YouTube or Codecademy. You may also want to look for peers who might be interested to join you as a means of building accountability into your effort. “Learning something new is not only beneficial for a professional practice, it is essential for survival; with the increased role of computers, in-house staff, and cheaper alternatives for commodity-like tasks, it is critical to always be on the lookout for new ways to bring value to clients,” says Philip Comella, a partner with Freeborn & Peters LLP in Chicago.
Most organizations have an array of internal training programs and client-facing webinars where individuals can hone their skills. In addition, ask your colleagues, clients, and prospects what they are learning in an effort to collaboratively track progress. You may, for example, be interested in developing expertise in a growing practice area, but your client may be learning how to play the guitar. Knowing that will almost certainly enhance your relationship and give you the chance to discuss something that connects you beyond work.
Overcome Your Networking Fears
That interaction can be very meaningful, but most professionals struggle with networking effectively. My favorite technique for overcoming the fear of doing so is to start by engaging alumni of my college or law school. To this end, I routinely send LinkedIn invitations to law firm and corporate leaders who attended either university. I also reach out to those connections, new and old, when I am traveling because we have an organic bond and the percentage of individuals who respond positively is very high.
You can replicate that response rate in a more comfortable approach by searching for alumni at your firm, your local bar association, or any other organization in which you are active. Consider initiating the dialogue by asking about their work, role in the bar association, or support of an activity. The objective is to develop a greater level of comfort with this process so apply it broadly to maximize the benefit. “You need to understand that networking becomes easier the more often you do it; you can help yourself to be more comfortable if you approach it as a desire to meet someone new, learn something, or embrace an experience,” says Ryan King, the director of communications for Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. in Atlanta.
If you benefit from any social media tool and share content, it is very likely that at some point, your connections have “liked” your contributions. Despite that acknowledgment, most people take no follow-up action because “likes” are often too common to be noticed.
I encourage you to view social media “likes” as an invitation to connect. If someone takes the time to encourage me, I try to send him or her a quick note to see how he is doing and to thank him. Since no one ever does this, it tends to be very effective and frequently fuels a dialogue. “It shows your connections that you are paying attention and gives you another opportunity to put yourself out there in front of others,” says Scott Jaffee, the director of finance and administration at Cohen Clair Lans Greifer Thorpe & Rottenstreich LLP in New York City.
Test it out by reviewing your recent social media content, which can be something you shared or created, and list the names of the individuals who ‘liked’ your work. All of those platforms are designed to foster engagement so look for organic opportunities to take advantage of that intent.
Conduct a Periodic Review
As you expand your efforts, consider reviewing all of your marketing and business development activities from January first through today to identify incomplete items, areas that require follow-up, and potential opportunities. “Periodic review of business development activities is essential as not all efforts work in all circumstances; cultural, environmental, and political circumstances may affect the success of any campaign so paying attention to what works can ensure your time and efforts are well spent,” says Richard Williams, a partner with Deloitte China and the global leader of Deloitte Discovery in Hong Kong.
Highlight individuals with whom you worked and would like to work with again, media outlets with which you shared content and can pitch new ideas, whether written or audio, such as a webinar or podcast, and events you attended or at which you appeared. If they were valuable, reach out to your contacts and propose something new. As part of that process, highlight members of your network or individuals that you would like to add to your network for a potential collaboration. It is much easier to reach out to someone and ask if she would like to co-author an article, jointly participate in a webinar, or share the stage at a conference for a presentation you are proposing, than to simply invite her coffee.
In addition, if you found a particular publishing experience helpful or an event worthwhile, search for similar opportunities. Maybe the outlet that published your work has a sister magazine or a competitor that would similarly appreciate your perspective. For conferences, you can simply conduct a Google search for the subject, practice area, type of organization, and an array of other terms to find related events. You may even want to ask your peers what they prefer.
Pay Attention to Your Peers
In fact, remaining connected with your colleagues is critical. There is so much content to which we are exposed that it can be hard to hear the important messages through all of the noise. LinkedIn actually has a useful feature that allows you to search through the material that your connections have shared. For example, if you want to see a list of all of your contacts who are raising money for a cause of some type as a means of better understanding what is most meaningful to them, you can visit LinkedIn, click the search box, select content, and enter search terms, such as “raising money” or “donation.” Then refine your search by first-tier connections to ensure that these are posts from people in your network.
Each of these ideas is meant to spark your imagination and empower a practical approach to raising your profile and building a network. Use one as a catalyst for starting a streak. For instance, if your content search yields five contacts who are raising money, you may want to make a donation each day for five consecutive days. If you identify ten contacts who ‘liked’ your content, you can follow-up with each one over a 10-day period. Given the value of consistency in business development, this process is likely to generate momentum, which leads to opportunity.
Ari Kaplan, a member of Marketing the Law Firm’s board of editors, is the author of various books about marketing and teaches programs at law firms nationwide on getting published, branding, networking, public speaking, and reinvention. He is also the creator of the Lawcountability business development software platform and iPhone app. Email him at Ari@AriKaplanAdvisors.com for a series of infographics on how to gain publishing, branding, and public speaking advantages.
The views expressed in the article are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of their clients or other attorneys in their firm.
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