Brendan Collar, a first year trainee in Shoosmiths' Solent office shares his top tips of how to make the best impression first time every time.
First impressions are everything. It cannot be emphasised enough how important it is to give a good impression of yourself whether you're attending an assessment day, a formal/informal networking event, a law fair or simply having a conversation with someone either face-to-face, on the telephone, by email or otherwise. However, it isn't always 'easy' to simply give the best impression of yourself first time every time, so here's a few tips to help you in doing so.
1. Research, research, research
Although the topic of research is something that is always featured in any 'top tips' or 'guidance', it is vitally important. Undertaking research in advance of events enables you the opportunity to develop your interests in the firm, area of law, speciality or otherwise. Looking beyond the firm's website or published information demonstrates that you have a real interest, and can act as a great topic of conversation where you can offer a well-informed opinion of your own.
Shoosmiths ask a 'topical question' as part of the assessment centre interview where you will be expected to form an opinion on the spot, so it's a good habit to get into as early as possible in your career.
If you know you're going to be meeting a specific individual or individuals of whichever seniority, research them beforehand - take a look at their area of specialism, cases they've worked on, their LinkedIn and Twitter profile, and background - all of this information will allow you to hone in on any questions you put to them. You'll be able to tailor the conversation to each person you speak to which demonstrates great self-awareness and awareness of others.
Awareness means being aware of your strengths and development areas, being sensitive to those around you and adapting your behaviour accordingly. It's one of the behaviours which is assessed on the Shoosmiths assessment centre.
2. Appearance and body language
It seems too obvious to mention the importance of appearance and body language but you should spend some time thinking about your image as your personal brand. What qualities do you want people to think about when they hear your name? Smart, friendly, approachable, engaging, inspirational, down to earth, etc.
Dress comfortably but professionally, and within keeping with the culture of the firm or event.
When talking to others listen actively to what they have to say, and be genuinely interested in the conversation rather than racing towards the end goal of exchanging contact details or finding the next person to talk to. Be confident, project a positive attitude and strive to learn from your meeting. Even though you may feel nervous inside, try to smile.
3. It's a two-way conversation
When attending an event or meeting a new person, applicants often race through their questions like an interrogation, but you'll be remembered if you can have a good conversation without making it feel like an interview. Tailor your questions to the correct audience, for example, you wouldn't attend a networking event for solicitors and pose questions based entirely on the profession of barristers - although I've witnessed this on many occasions, both as an applicant myself and a trainee.
In order to make the best impression people need to have the chance to get to know a little about you. Allow them the opportunity to ask you questions and if you realise that no question(s) have been asked of you, make it happen! Don't be shy to say something about yourself, tell your story and share something personal which you'll be remembered for - provided it's related to the conversation.
4. Make a second and lasting impression
If you've met a person and shared a conversation with them, make sure you follow it up. You can get in touch by email, or on social media (LinkedIn and Twitter). If you didn't manage to catch their contact details use your initiative and search for them on their company website or LinkedIn/Twitter account. When reaching out; thank them, make reference to the time, place and topic of conversation as this will reconfirm to the person who you are. Further, it will reinforce the first impression you gave and leave them with that same lasting impression of you. It cannot be emphasised enough that little things, such as a quick 'thank you' message, will go a long way to getting you noticed by individuals/firms.
Remember, first impressions lead to lasting impressions, so be yourself, be proactive, use social media platforms and make connections, and stand out (for the right reasons). Good luck!