Networking is a fundamental aspect of many legal roles, but it can present a greater challenge under COVID-19 restrictions. Chloe-Helen Scott, a trainee solicitor offers her advice on how to maximise your virtual networking success.
Networking is the art of cultivating professional relationships to aid your social development and commercial opportunity awareness. Any networking that is virtual, is any form of communication that does not take place in a physical setting. This incorporates social media platforms, video-conferencing software, phone calls and email.
Change your view-point
Before COVID-19, networking was intimidating for anyone that isn’t a natural social butterfly. Add in social distancing measures and you might question whether it’s worth the effort. You couldn’t be more wrong – if networking is no longer daunting, it becomes enjoyable.
- actively view networking as an exciting opportunity to socialise and interact with others on a personal level. Working from home can create a solitary atmosphere, meaning that your interaction with someone could mean a lot to them, or even make their day
- if you can, use the phone or a video link to add a more personal touch
- recognise networking as a chance to take a breather from more demanding tasks
- appreciate the mental health benefits of connecting with people every day
Adapt to the ‘new normal’
The COVID-19 restrictions make physical meetings almost impossible. This makes it even more important to showcase your resilience and versatility in challenging circumstances.
- dress appropriately and find a suitable background for a video call - where you may not meet people in person for an extended period of time, this is the general impression that the recipient will have of you as they will have no physical examples
- use a stand to raise the laptop camera so that the angle isn’t too low
- think about your tone, pace and pitch in communicating with the recipient. It may be a cliché that people will forget the verbatim content of a conversation to some extent but will remember how it made them feel
- smile before you pick up the phone – this can make a huge difference
Seize the day and take the initiative to create new networking opportunities. Virtual networking comes in a variety of forms. It could be a formally arranged video meeting with a contact or a spontaneous chat with a colleague.
- think outside the box – new connections can be found anywhere
- set regular targets for yourself. A daily target could be sending a LinkedIn message to someone you met at an assessment centre, work experience or a networking event to ask how they are. For the week, you might aim for a few catch up calls with colleagues who are working from home
- consider which communication medium is more appropriate depending on the level of formality
- make the most of any social media training that you are offered. This could significantly impact your confidence and business development skills
- if you’re new to a team, write the names of any meeting or webinar attendees down to connect with them via LinkedIn
- familiarise yourself with communications software (WebEX/Teams/Zoom etc) to improve your technical ability
Calm your nerves
Take a minute to get organised before a call. It’s important to recognise how you’re feeling and the steps that you can take to remedy that.
- stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water helps to clear brain fog and increase your motivation levels for the day. It also stops your mouth getting too dry
- keep space on your desk for any notes or conversation starters
- look into who you are calling – Do you have a common interest? Have you worked in a similar area? What are they working on now?
- recognise that you (may) have the comfort of your own home to make the call in
- if you have an anxiety condition, and you find it helps, take 5 minutes before the call to practice mindfulness
- use a grounding object. This can be anything that means something to you and allows you to focus on being calm. For example, it could be a photo of your family that you keep on your desk
- reward yourself. If you meet your target, have a square of chocolate or get 5 minutes of fresh air
For more advice on networking and how to build virtual relationships, have a read of Yasmin’s blog.
For the opportunity to network with us, apply to attend a virtual insight evening. Applications are open online now and close 30 November 2020.