For me personally, networking has first and foremost increased my confidence.
Networking is often a daunting prospect for undergraduates. The idea of making conversation and coming across well to successful people, who you know will be judging you, can be extremely intimidating. However, the most important thing I have learnt throughout my networking experiences is that everybody is human. Now, this may seem obvious but realising this is instrumental to successful networking. By keeping this in mind you can relax and actually get to know the person you are meeting and work on building relationships.
Here are a few more points to keep in mind when networking:
1. Organise your time and plan ahead. This requires a wall planner as seen above or diary. These days with the internet, there is an abundance of events you can attend either set up by your University or individual firms. It is crucial to schedule these in so you can keep on top of everything and make sure you are not taking too much on.
2.Variety is key. You do not have to limit yourself to only law events. Attending finance based events and other events set up by large companies can also be a useful way of building ‘commercial awareness’ and building your network. Keep an open mind as opportunities can arise from anywhere!
3. Plan what it is you want from the event and be confident. For an example, as I am applying for training contracts I know a common question is about what the firm does. Therefore, I always ask trainees about what they are working on at the moment and if there is anything of particular interest. Be aware however a little prior research is also useful in this instance to ensure you are able to have a two way conversation!
4. Dress smartly. This is pretty generic but a must. I find for us girls this can be harder as the harsh reality is we are so often judged on what we look like. I usually opt for a pencil skirt and chiffon high neck top and blazer. Heels are optional. I will do another post dedicated to this topic with pictures soon so watch this space 😉
5. Be bold. This means don’t hold back. If there is a speaker who’s presentation you particularly enjoyed, don’t cower in the background afterwards, go and tell them you enjoyed it! People really appreciate it when they can see you have the confidence to approach them with ease. I would strongly advise against being a lone soldier at events. I attend many on my own but I make sure I meet other students and guests whilst there. Sometimes even networking with other attendees can be useful!
6. Take a notepad. What I do is, after approaching somebody and talking to them, I try to obtain a business card or some further contact information. Then, I go and find somewhere out of the way and make a brief note about the person i.e their name, organisation (sometimes even what they looked like!); key things we discussed; and contact details. I also store business cards in this book. This is really helpful for later on if you want to remind yourself of people you have met and if you want to include them in applications or if you just want to contact them again.
7. Follow up. This is absoloutly vital. Even if it is to say thank you, this is very good practice. By contacting people after the event the person can see that you are serious and you can continue to build relationships. Depending on how the initial meeting went you may even be able to organize another meeting over coffee or at their office. NB. Do use your common sense in such situations. Never ask to meet up if you barely talked for two minutes at the original event!
These few steps really helped me out and I hope they help you too!