Rainmaker: (raynmay kuhr) n. 3. Informal. An executive or lawyer able to secure clients, generate income, etc., esp. by using political or other connections.
So they forgot to tell you to take Rainmaking 101 in college? Now you're sitting at your new desk, in your new clothes, with no clients. Guess what? No one's going to give them to you. You have to do that magic rain dance yourself, new high heels and all.
The problem is, your employers often forget what it was like coming into the working world without a client base. Many of them have had clients for years and may have left you to train yourself on the networking aspect of your job -- a very important part of that career.
Cold calling gives many of us chills. Handing out business cards on the bus (I swear, it has been done) and throwing out that pitch sure aren't what you learned in Ethics Law class.
You know the key to becoming partner includes building your own client base. How do you troll for clients while trying to please the boss with your work output? How do you make people want you?
A Lawyer's Client Discovery
Employers assume that graduates know how to market, says Nora Klaphake, 30, associate director of Career Services at Hamline University School of Law, St. Paul, Minn. She knows that firsthand because she entered private practice as an associate lawyer at the ripe old age of 26.
"There often is no formal, in-house marketing training for new employees," Klaphake said. "Many employers know that they themselves engage in marketing but have a difficult time teaching the skills to new employees."
When Klaphake was the new lawyer on the block, she knew she had to build a client base, knew it would be appreciated by the partners, but she didn't know how to fit it into her schedule. "I saw how [marketing] was really valued by the attorneys, but I had to do it on my own time," she explained. This added to a flood of additional hours outside of the traditional workweek.
How did she do it and still have a little time left over for herself? She learned that getting involved in the community was a great way to enjoy herself while making contacts for future clients.
Klaphake suggests this to the students who come to her for career advice. Go out, join civic organizations, she said. And make contacts with those "we tend to forget about -- day-to-day contacts -- your doctor, friends, neighbors."
This way, you're working after-hours on a client base, but you're not really working.
"I encourage them to do something they're genuinely interested in," Klaphake said. "You'll get a lot further if you're doing something you enjoy."
But remember, finding prospective clients isn't your only responsibility. You have a job to do.
"The key is to balance turning out a quality work product and marketing to new clients. Overproducing in either area will not make up for a lack in the other," Klaphake said.
Let me advise you, please. Please, please.
When Brian Lynn, 28, financial adviser at Legg Mason in Bethesda, started at the company five years ago, it was nothing short of scary, he said.
He was from New Jersey, so he didn't know anyone in the area. He was desperate to find clients. "Any way I could find people to come in the door, I was doing that," he explained. "Cold calling, cold walking ... you really have to work hard to build your own business."
Ultimately Lynn did build his client base, so now, he said, "it's pretty much all referrals."
People often have the misconception that the client base for such jobs is is partly supplied by the company, partly dug up by the employee. Not true. According to Lynn, it's about 98 percent a matter of finding your own clients. They come "from getting to know people. No one comes walking in the door," he said.
Finding clients was both a daytime and after-hours job for Lynn. He did it in part by socializing.
"Anything goes. I was working very hard prospecting during work and trying to develop social contacts in the community," he said.
Neighbors got to know Lynn as someone they could go to for financial counseling. "I can grow trust and establish myself through the community," he said.
Some aspects of prospecting were especially difficult. Lynn had to literally knock on doors and sell himself. But he caught on. "I thought it would be a little easier than it was. ... It's not as easy as people think," he said.
Tricia Chamberlain, 27, had a different kind of rainmaking to do when she joined Interim Services Inc., a temp agency based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. As a media relations specialist, she had to convince writers that Interim would be a good topic for a story, especially for pieces on workplace trends.
That entailed a lot of cold calling when she came on board, and a good amount of work-related research on her own time. She made an effort to read up on writers who would be interested in covering subjects related to Interim.
After that, she just tried to get in touch with potential media contacts "on an individual basis."
Social skills -- that's what Chamberlain said were necessary to find most of her sources. Simply: "I don't chat on the phone with someone who doesn't like to chat," she said. If she can tell that someone does like to talk, she'll try to find common ground. "In my field, that goes a long way. They remember you if you made a connection."
She had picked up some of those skills before coming to Interim -- with her background as a journalism major in college and working for a newspaper she understood the business of her target group.
But the art of gaining a client base wasn't taught in college, nor was it drilled into Chamberlain in job training, and her marketing prowess hasn't come easily.
"I just jumped in. You learn from your mistakes," she said.
If you have questions about getting ahead, you can e-mail Amy Joyce at email@example.com