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The IP professional, business development and stretching beyond your comfort zone

As an IP professional, do you eschew business development activities because you don't feel comfortable? After all, you are highly academically trained. You are trained to understand the technical, innovative and creative arts. You understand the legal complexities of this world. You are an expert in your field and provide top tier service and solutions to your clients.

Or maybe you just don't like having to make small talk with a room full of strangers. 👎 Or maybe, like so many others, you prefer to steer clear of public speaking. 😨 If this is the case, 𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒆'𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈. Many times throughout your career, you already will have pushed the boundaries of your comfort zone. 💣💥🕳️ For example, maybe you switched careers. I have met very few people who got an advanced education with IP in mind as the end game. I was a design engineer once upon a time and transitioned to IP purely out of happenstance. It was a big change which entailed a move not only to a new employer, but also across the country. Talk about stretching that comfort zone! I know people who were researchers that are now patent professionals. I know others who were account managers that now are responsible for global trademark portfolios. Did you pivot from the world of design, research or academia to IP? How did you manage your sense of comfort during the switch?

The IP associate and the limiting power of your comfort zone

The boundary of your comfort zone would have expanded as you learned and trained over time. As you gain more knowledge and experience, your confidence likewise grows, thus enlarging you comfort zone. Handling more complex cases, taking on more responsibility and growing within your role as an IP professional all inherently challenge your sense of comfort. Eventually you complete more and more tasks independently. But is any work product truly ever perfect in your eyes? Two patent applications drafted by different professionals for the same innovation will read completely differently. A re-read of your own work will invariably lead to some changes (possibly to the chagrin of your paralegal!). And further yet, what about the first time you sign off on your own work? It was some time ago, but I still remember the first time I signed PO papers. I was looking at something I would have been 100% confident asking a senior member to sign, but the hesitancy to sign myself was strong - I will reaching beyond my comfort zone.

The funny thing about the boundary of your comfort zone is that the more you stretch it, the larger your actual comfort zone becomes. Any stretch of the boundary is temporary because, in time, it simply adjusts to a new shape.

Whatever the reason is and wherever your comfort level boundary falls, you have stretched beyond your comfort level before to get to where you are.

So why stop now?

What can you do to challenge your comfort zone?

What about speaking up next time you know you have something to say but are holding back because of imposter syndrome or fear of being wrong? What about considering how you can build autonomy in your practice and build your client base? Don't like public speaking? What about moderating a webinar or hosting a round table instead? Does networking bring back memories of "stranger danger" lessons? Consider a smaller event or a virtual event you can attend from the familiarity of your own space.

You can even “buddy up” with a colleague from a complimentary practice if that will help you push the limits. If you are a patent professional, team up with a trademark colleague. This will not only help provide support for you, but it can also help present a more complete offering of IP services to potential clients.

Business development has changed. There is so much opportunity to get creative and get active in ways that honor your preferences while safely stretching your comfort zone.

Overcoming the fear and hesitancy that may be limiting your business development efforts can help you be more present, more active and more vocal which in turn increases your visibility and access to your desired audience of potential targets.

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