Networking is often the part of moving from student to professional that feels most unfamiliar. It seems to fill people with ‘the fear’ but is essentially just engaging with other human beings. Like any other skill it can be mastered with practice.
Whether at conferences, young professional events, client evenings or the office Christmas party, networking is an important part of developing your professional network. In this blog post I will give my three top tips for mastering the art of networking.
Networking is a skill that seems to come more naturally to some than others, leading to a misconception that it cannot be learnt or developed. This is simply not true and networking can be practiced and honed like any of the other skills you will be developing as a future lawyer. My first top tip is to watch those around you that are already very good at networking. Watch what they do and how they do it, listen to what they say and what they ask people at networking events. If you notice that they do anything particularly well, such as a great way of introducing themselves or a smooth method of exiting a conversation, then remember it to use in future.
2. Start small
Experienced networkers will move around a room with ease, greeting everyone, introducing people to other attendees, creating and strengthening relationships that could have the potential to turn into clients or opportunities for cross referrals. If networking is brand new to you, focus on the basics. A great first step is having the confidence to introduce yourself to someone new, get their name and where they’re from, having a short conversation about the event itself and moving away from that person after an appropriate amount of time. If you’re not quite there yet, ask someone who already knows a lot of people at an event to introduce you to a few of them, and then try and pick up a conversation with them later on.
My final top tip is that practice makes perfect. Take every opportunity to practice your new skills and each time it will get a little less scary. Attend any events that you can and set small goals such as introducing yourself to 5 new people and remembering their names or following up with 2 people that you’ve talked to the next day by dropping them a short message. Even normal every-day situations can be opportunities to develop your confidence if what you find difficult is speaking to new people. Starting conversations while making a cup of tea in the staff canteen or while waiting for an elevator can help ease any nerves that you have about talking to strangers.
Networking is essential to developing both your business connections and your own personal brand, so it is something that should be seen as helpful and fun rather than a necessary evil. It is also good for your personal life as you build self-assurance and once you get over ‘the fear’ you will find that you are having lots of interesting conversations and maybe even enjoying yourself!
For more advice to build your confidence further, read Brendan’s blog ‘First impressions lead to lasting impressions.’ Or Jenny’s blog ‘The art of networking’.
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