Jennifer Gibbs, a first year trainee in Shoosmiths' Reading office shares her top tips of how to master the art of networking.
Whether you're attending a law fair, informal trainee lunch event or a formal solicitors networking evening, being able to network effectively is a key skill to have under your belt. However, networking can seem daunting, so here's a few tips to help you successfully navigate a networking opportunity.
1. Research beforehand
If you're attending an event where you know who'll be attending, research the firm or individual beforehand. At a law fair, it is much more impressive if you know a bit about the firm and can ask specific and relevant questions, not things that are clearly accessible on the website.
If you're at an event and know a couple of individuals who will be attending, their firm's website will usually tell you their role within the firm and their practice area so you're able to ask more relevant and interesting questions.
2. Remember it's a conversation
If you are prepared and have a few questions you'd like answering, make sure you don't grill people on them. Networking is just as much a chance for other people to get to know you as it is for you to know them. Try and keep it a little informal and interesting and build a rapport with whoever you're talking to. However if you're more reserved, don't be afraid to join in a conversation and let your personality come across, the reason you're there is to try and build relationships.
3. Don't be afraid to move on to another person
If you're engaged in a conversation with someone or a group, don't be afraid (at an appropriate break in discussions) to politely move on to the next person. There's nothing wrong in saying 'it was good to meet you. I should try and meet at few more people by the end of the evening'. Alternatively you can offer to introduce them to someone else and then politely exit the conversation.
4. Take a notebook
As well as collecting business cards, take a notebook so between conversations you can jot down names of people you met and anything interesting you discussed. Or, if you're at a law fair for example, note any tips you picked up or questions you've had answered.
5. Follow up
Make sure you connect with the people you've met after a networking event. Connect on social media, such as LinkedIn or send a follow up email. You remember the people who contact you after a networking event and it ensures they have your contact details. If possible try and reference something you discussed, to ensure they know who it is contacting them.
Networking is a skill that takes time and practice and, as with everything, comes easier to some people than others. However you shouldn't go too far wrong if you look professional, act confidently and be yourself.