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Networking, Community and Finding Friends in Business

Legally Yours intern, Monique Walker, considers a different approach to networking based on advice shared in her interview with Fionn Bowd of Bowd Legal. In turn, Monique reflects on her experience in the Legally Yours Community.

The Oxford English dictionary defines networking as ​a system of trying to meet and talk to other people who may be useful to you in your work.

Networking is typically framed as a means to get ahead. Early in our careers, we are encouraged to make connections with those who have achieved success to potentially unlock the ever-elusive ‘hidden job market’. In pursuit of growing our networks and being know, connections can sometimes feel transient and transactional.

‘When you’re starting out in business you’re taught to go and network because those people might be able to do something for you down the track’, says Fionn Bowd of Bowd Legal. From Fionn’s experience women are often uncomfortable with this transactional approach. Fionn believes that actually ‘you need friends in business’.

We’ve all heard the saying ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’. But is it really who we know? Maybe it’s not who we know, but how we know them. By this, I don’t mean how we come to meet someone but the actual substance of our business relationships.

Fionn encourages ditching the ‘exchange mentality’, favouring a collaborative approach rooted in a motivation to learn. How? Read on for some advice based on my interview with Fionn.

  1. Find like-minded people

‘Look for people who are like you, who think like you and who care about what you care about.’

To Fionn, forging relationships in business is about ‘being part of a movement’. While ‘growing your tribe’ has almost become a cliché, she believes in bringing community to the business world, for everyone’s benefit. She uses the example of hunter-gatherer tribes. It was never the case that the strongest men went hunting and the rest starved; there have always been people in communities who could not hunt due to weakness, illness, or inability. Men would hunt for the benefit of the whole tribe. But this community-mindedness has in some ways been lost in business.

  1. Turn up and learn

‘Forget what you want from people, just turn up… and have conversations.’

This approach to networking is not outcome-focused; it’s not for a particular end goal. The focus is on relationships. Connect with people ‘not because you want something… [but] for the purpose of learning’, Fionn says.

  1. Be generous, without the expectation of reciprocity

‘We are going to help each other, we are going to promote each other, we are going to give each other work, we are going to connect each other with other people, but not because we want something in return but because we believe in what the other person is doing.’

It’s more like a friendship and less like a business partnership. Fionn uses her mothers’ group as an example of a similar community – there’s no keeping tabs on whether one member of the group has more support than another; everyone just shows up and gives whatever they can to support each other. Instead of the mindset of ‘how much can I get?’, we can reframe it to be ‘how much can I give?’.  Approaching networking opportunities with this mindset, will help forge genuinely strong and supportive relationships.

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Fionn’s approach to building business relationships is reflected in my experience as an intern at Legally Yours. Initially, I viewed this experience as another opportunity to expand my network. It was a way to connect with professionals who may be able to provide advice or opportunities. But it has been so much more than that.

I have discovered that generosity and community-mindedness run deep within the Legally Yours Community. I have had the pleasure of interviewing inspirational female lawyers and entrepreneurs, all with a genuine desire to authentically share their stories and advice. Consistent themes arose from my interviews: a drive to challenge the status quo, to hold the legal profession to account and a genuine empathy and deep care for the client and their experience. This experience has helped me to realise that law and business are fundamentally about relationships.

So as my Legally Yours internship draws to an end and I transition from student to graduate, I will do so with deep gratitude for the generosity, advice and support I’ve gained from this community.  I will carry with me a new definition of networking.

I define networking as an opportunity to build a community of like-minded people with a motivation to learn, share ideas and foster relationships based on generosity and belief in each other.