The reason all coaches and almost all sane professional people advocate networking is that things happen via relationships. So the more you attend to developing and maintaining your relationships, the more easily you will acquire valuable information and interesting opportunities that help you self-actualize. Here are a few illustrations. I'm calling them "Network Stories" because that sounds marginally more appealing than "Networking Stories."
Story #1: Pro Bono to Paris in 11 Steps
1. Around 2001, my college friend Bennett introduced me to his acquaintance, Peter, an aspiring producer. (For awhile, Peter represented the film rights to our collaboratively written book about a prostitution ring at Harvard, The Student Body.)
2. A couple of years later, upon learning that I had started coaching, Peter referred his own college friend, Richard.
3. I met Richard. For various reasons, I decided to coach him pro-bono. We had lots of sessions 2003 to 2004
4. Soon after I started coaching Richard, a writer named Sarah heard through the grapevine that I was coaching him, and that I was good. Sarah’s friend Marci, a freelancer for The New York Times, was looking for sources for a story about lawyers pursuing other careers. Sarah referred me. (I’ve still never actually spoken with Sarah.)
5. I gave Marci Alboher some good quotes and in the months and years following she and I became good friends. We’ve collaborated on many things over the years, including serving resources for each other in the development of her book, One Person/Multiple Careers, and mine, The Creative Lawyer.
6. When Marci got her gig as the “Shifting Careers” blogger for The New York Times, she asked if I would do some guest pieces. “Sure!”
7. One piece I did at the end of 2007, “Year-End Review – With Yourself” proved to be very popular. It was widely circulated and was one of the most-emailed business posts of the year.
8. In Paris, an American lawyer named Meg read the article at her office. She thought, “This is a good article. This would a good exercise for my husband and me to do.” Then she saw the photo of the author (me) and said, “hey, I know that guy.” Meg and I had worked together at the same law firm in the mid-1990s.
9. Meg had become a big partner at said law firm and at that very minute happened looking for talent to speak at a summer lawyers retreat. She contacted me.
10. I always loved Meg, notwithstanding the fact that I hadn’t spoken to her for more than ten years. Plus, who could say non to Paris? Funds were tight but we quickly worked out a deal.
11. In July 2008 I did a presentation based on my book at the Paris office of my former law firm. It was super-fun and I got to see one of the great cities of the world.
Moral: you just never know what people might lead you to.