“It’s not what you know it’s who you know”… The fine art of networking
Networking, love it or hate it, it really is an essential skill to have as a trainee solicitor. In this article, I will share my top tips for effective networking as a trainee or, indeed, as a student.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines networking as the interaction with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. As a trainee solicitor this is key as you are in the process of starting your legal career and you should take every opportunity to expand your professional network – you never know who you’ll meet and how you may interact with them down the line.
Networking is an important element of business, not simply because it enables us to gain access to potential clients, but because it also helps us to develop that all important “commercial awareness”.
Through interacting with a variety of different people in various different lines of work, this provides a valuable insight into different professions which, in turn, helps us to understand the environments in which our clients may work.
With the above in mind, I have set out below my top tips for effective networking:
Take every opportunity given to you – remember networking is not just for those who are more senior than you!
Despite only being a second seat trainee (so relatively new to the legal profession!) I have put myself forward to attend numerous networking events ranging from property seminars and Law Society dinners, to young professionals’ networking events. Through my attendance at these events, I have met a wide range of people and I am beginning to build my professional network. Even as a trainee, you are able to effectively represent your firm at these events and help to build your firm’s profile.
Be prepared – dress appropriately, be punctual, research the attendees, ensure you understand the purpose of the event.
It is essential that you arrive at an event fully prepared so that you can take all you possibly can from every event. It is better to be over prepared than underprepared!
Don’t be afraid to turn up alone and introduce yourself.
Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of networking is the fact that sometimes you may not know anyone else at the event you are attending. However, these are professional events and many others are in the same situation and have the same reason for attending. With that in mind, introduce yourself with confidence and don’t be afraid to cut a conversation short and move on if you feel that you are spending too much of the evening with one particular person.
Make a good first impression.
Be the best version of yourself and ensure that you have a good understanding of the event. People can be very quick to judge someone when they first meet them so it is essential that you come across well when you first meet a new contact. Interact with others with confidence and in a warm and engaging manner. Remember you are not just representing yourself but also representing your entire firm.
Always ensure that you take business cards to events and make sure that you take business cards from others that you meet at events, if appropriate. After you have spoken to someone, it is often quite useful to jot down a few notes about your conversation on their business card to help you remember them at the end of the event.
Keeping in contact is crucial and platforms such as LinkedIn can be very useful as can sending an email after the event.
Finally, as you begin to develop this skill, you’ll most likely find that networking can also be enjoyable and great fun, which further enhances your ability to network effectively. Alongside this, not only is networking a valuable way to learn more about what is important to your clients and the sectors in which they operate, but also you never know when you may just make that valuable connection!