Networking is defined by the Collins English Dictionary as the process of “forming business connections and contacts through informal social meetings”. This concept often frightens young professionals and it is understandable if you are not familiar with the idea of entering a room full of individuals that you are not acquainted with. However, the skill of building professional and personal connections with others is an essential skill for any legal professional and it is therefore a skill that any trainee solicitor must begin to develop. I have compiled a list of my top four tips to make the most out of networking events as a trainee solicitor below:
1. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!
Prior to the event, the organiser will almost always send out a list of delegates attending the event. Be sure to review this list, research who will be there in advance and make a note of who you would like to talk to. Do not hesitate to carry out a brief search of these individuals on Google or LinkedIn beforehand as this may assist you in subtly guiding any conversation with them at the event.
2. Be yourself and learn from those around you
Networking is a skill, and this is something you will be able to develop with both time and experience. I understand that often the most daunting aspect of networking is what you should be talking about. I suggest that you avoid overthinking this question and quite simply just be yourself. Networking is about forming connections with real people on both a personal and professional level. Do not underestimate the power of a recent news headline, a favourite sports team or hobby to get a conversation flowing.
3. Practice, practice practice
After your first networking event, you may feel disheartened if all of the individuals in the room appeared to have well-established connections already. My number one tip would be to not give up as understanding the art of networking takes time, effort and practice. I recommend signing up to any networking opportunities presented to you and I guarantee that over time you will slowly feel more at ease and in time you may well become one of the individuals with many well-established connections that you previously admired.
4. Remember to follow up
You will speak to many individuals at networking events and it is important to ensure that you are remembered. My top tip in this regard would be to ensure you always have your business cards to hand so you are able to exchange cards with those you engage with. Following the event, a simple email or LinkedIn connection can go a long way.
You never know who you might meet at a networking event, and so there are always worth going to as you may meet someone interesting or useful. And if you don’t, you’ll at least have had some another chance to practice your networking technique!