Imagine you meet someone at a party, a little-league game, or a local chamber of commerce event who introduces himself as an accountant.

Quick! Are you ready to hire him? Are you ready to refer a perfect client to him? No? Well, why not?

One explanation is that you have no idea what he actually does every day. The possibilities are endless and the answer is important because it informs whether and to whom you recommend him.

Perhaps he’s an accountant working for a large manufacturer and serves only that client. Maybe he’s a partner at one of the huge accounting firms and is hired only by companies with sophisticated tax and compliance issues. He could own or work for a small private practice that serves local families and business owners. And even then, you may not have a full understanding of what he does because, after all, you’re not an accountant.

You can’t help your new accountant friend grow his network unless you understand what he does and who would be a good person for him to meet.

When You Make This Assumption, Your Introduction is Incomplete

The same thing happens for others when they don’t understand what you do and who you help.

Don’t assume people understand what you do for a living. They don’t, any more than you are clear on exactly what they do. And if they don’t know what you do, they won’t remember you, hire you or refer clients to you.

Keep this important point in mind: No one wants to look stupid. No one wants to ask you a “dumb” question about what you do or make it clear that they don’t really understand your job description. People would prefer to nod knowingly than say “hey, what does a hedge fund lawyer do all day? And, by the way, what’s a hedge fund?”

Here’s the funny thing – this problem doesn’t just apply to non-lawyers! Even other lawyers, who can be a valuable referral source for you, may not know or understand what you do simply because they don’t do it. Do you really know precisely what each of your colleagues at the bar does? If you don’t, you certainly can’t expect prospective clients and contacts to know.

Your Introduction Should Make It Easy

It’s not the responsibility of others to do research, ask questions, and probe deeply so that they will be able to be a good source of help, resources and clients for you. To the contrary, it’s up to YOU. You’ve got to connect the dots for people and make it easy for them to remember you so they can refer you a client or make an introduction.

Next time you have the opportunity to introduce yourself, elaborate briefly on what you do to make it as clear as possible (a) whom you serve and (b) how you help them.

For example:

  • I’m an employment lawyer.
  • What I do is represent individuals who believe they have been unlawfully discriminated against in the workplace, whether it’s because of their age, race, gender or some other inappropriate reason.
  • I review their situations and help them determine whether they have a valid claim. I then try to help them resolve the situation with their employer or go to court if necessary.

When new contacts know what you do, whom you serve and how you help them, they will be much clearer about whether to hire you or refer you to others. And armed with a concise, plain-English explanation of what you do, they will be more likely to remember you, which is a critical first step in developing worthwhile business relationships.

Part 1 of the Craft Your 1-Minute Introduction Series clarifies why you need to stop telling people you are a lawyer or risk wasting your networking efforts.

Part 2 of the Craft Your 1-Minute Introduction Series reveals the #1 question you must answer in order to prepare a compelling intro that will ensure you are remembered.

Part 4 of the Craft Your 1-Minute Introduction Series outlines 7 simple ways to spice up your introduction so people listen to you, remember you and call you.

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