In law school, there are lots of wonderful opportunities to meet legal professionals at networking events. However, they can also be intimidating experiences, especially if you’ve never had the chance to practice your networking skills. Here are a few tips and tricks to get you more comfortable with networking.
Have a Goal
Ask yourself why you are attending the event. Give yourself an achievable goal like meeting three new people or connecting with someone in an area you are interested in. Do not over extend yourself in your goals or attempt to work the whole room. This will not provide you with the substantive connections you could make by focusing on connecting with a few people instead of many. Focus on quality not quantity.
Dress to Impress
Prepare your outfit in advance. Wear something clean, professional and wrinkle-free. The last thing you want to do is look disheveled or overly casual. Pay attention to stated dress codes and understand the difference between business casual and business formal. You should be comfortable and confident in what you choose to wear.
Do Not Overindulge
There will be plenty of food and drink options. Feel free to eat but be mindful of doing this during a conversation and take note of messier food items. When it comes to alcoholic beverages be mindful of the setting and your limit. A good rule of thumb is two drinks but of course, this is dependent on your own personal tolerance.
Make an Effective Intro
Make eye contact, smile, and give your full name. Give a firm but brief handshake. Listen closely for their full name and use it when speaking to them in order to remember it. When conversing stand with your posture open (e.g. try not to fold your arms or turn away from the person you’re speaking to).
Collect Business Cards and Take Notes
Not only ask for business cards but also bring a pen and make a notes on the back of them. Write down interesting and important details from your conversation to refer back to. If the person doesn’t have a business card, immediately after the conversation try to write down their name and a memorable part of your conversation of a small notepad or in your phone while it’s fresh in your mind.
Ask the Right Questions and Shape Your Conversations
If you know of a few people who will be there you can research them ahead of time and have questions ready for them. Be specific with your question but also craft conversations according the setting. This particular event is a “Mix and Mingle” so try to keep the conversation light and focus on interesting, fun facts about the person you are conversing with. Be a listener! Pay attention to the details of your conversations as you could use them in follow up communications.
Do Not Be Afraid to Join Conversations
This can be a nerve-wracking part of networking events. Perhaps start off by doing it with a partner. People understand the dynamics of networking events and will generally welcome others into their conversations. Wait for a natural break in the conversation and join. If you feel like you joined a conversation you are less interested in feel free to hop to another by politely excusing yourself (e.g. “it was a pleasure meeting you (person’s name), please excuse me”).
In order to solidify your relationship building with your new connection contacting them in the next 24 hours after the event would be best. After adding them on LinkedIn you could message them there or drop them a note via email. This will give you the opportunity to ask any follow-up questions or schedule a coffee chat within a next week or two. When sending your email, mention something that stood out from your conversation. Be mindful to check for spelling and grammatical errors in your email.
What are we missing? Do you have any tips for law students looking to sharpen their networking skills? Let us know in the comments on our social media accounts!