Going to a networking event can feel daunting, but networking in the modern business world is a vital skill, and it is never too early to start developing your networking ability, be that attending your University Careers Fair or a professional networking event. Being able to network effectively might be the skill that sets you apart from the crowd when applying for a Training Contract and will certainly serve you well as a future Trainee Solicitor.
Here are my top tips on how you can start networking effectively:
1. Prepare for the event:
You might wonder why it would be necessary to prepare for a networking event but doing some research into who might be attending the event and in particular who you would like the opportunity to meet, will allow you to get the most out of any networking event that you attend. If there are firms sponsoring the event, try and find out some information about who’s who and some background information; this can help you make small talk and also demonstrates you are interested in that person.
2. Dress to impress:
Dress so that you look smart and professional, but make sure you are comfortable in what you are wearing, you do not want to be distracted by rubbing shoes or ill-fitting clothes.
3. The initial approach:
When you enter the room, have a look around to see who is there and decide who you are going to approach first. When making the initial approach, it might be better to join a group of people as opposed to interrupting two people who are engaged in a deep conversation.
4. Making a good first impression:
To network efficiently, you need to not only meet with people, but also connect. You want the people you meet to remember you, but more importantly, you want them to remember you for the right reasons, and it is therefore important to make a good first impression. You can do this by ensuring you are articulate and clear in conversation. It is also a good idea to know the current ‘hot topics’ within the area covered at the event and more generally, so that you can hold interesting discussions with those that you meet.
5. Learn to small talk:
Being able to ‘small talk’ is vital to being able to connect with people, and a great way to start a more in-depth conversation. Asking questions shows you have an interest in the person you are talking to. Be prepared to talk about yourself, such as the work you do or your studies. Before you arrive at the event think about your proudest achievements and what you might want others to know about you.
6. Be yourself:
It can be nerve wracking meeting people for the first time, but try to feel confident in yourself and be genuine when holding a conversation with others.
7. Remember to listen:
Once you have started a conversation listen carefully and try to remember details about the conversation so that you can draw on it if and when you meet them in the future. Most importantly, try to remember their name, something easier said than done when you are sometimes stood in a busy room.
8. Follow up contacts:
Make sure you follow up contacts made at an event, ideally within 48 hours. Equally, make sure the contacts you make along the way do not get forgotten about. Hand out your business cards and make sure when someone hands you theirs that you keep it safe so that you can follow up after the event. Using LinkedIn can be a useful tool to ensure you keep up with your network, and can allow you to show an interest in certain areas by joining discussions.
9. Create a network of useful contacts:
The ultimate goal is to create a network of useful contacts that benefits everyone. A good contact will think of you when opportunities arise and vice versa. You will always meet people who seem to know everyone and these are particularly useful contacts to acquire. Do not be disheartened if you attend a networking event and don’t make any new connections. Be prepared that creating your network of contacts takes time, and relationships will need to be nurtured.
10. Be a good contact:
Do not ask people for help if you are not equally prepared to help them in return. Be a good contact and offer your assistance as and when you are able to. You never know if you might need their help one day.
I wish you the best of luck in your future networking endeavours and creating your own useful network of contacts.