Networking for dummies
We are constantly being told how important networking is. So, you get invited to a networking function and you feel somewhat obliged to go. Your new acquaintances await you. Your first thoughts are, ‘here comes an awkward conversation’ (well, it’s bound to happen at least once). Not long after you state, ‘I’m a law student!’ the conversation seems to stifle because neither of you know what to say next. How do you combat that?
1. Smile, genuinely.
Let’s face it, we can spot a fake smile a mile away. You have got to genuinely be happy to be in the room. Ok, maybe networking isn’t your cup of tea but surely neither is studying for hours on end, right? Networking is about wanting to meet people, genuinely. A smile tells the other person that you’re friendly. People like friendly people. We all want to know them, talk to them and have them around.
2. Ask open questions.
Meeting people, within the legal sphere and abroad, can provide you with meaningful insights about various fields of work. This sort of knowledge can assist you to think about what area you would like to practice in (or not practice in). Networking events provide you with the perfect opportunity to gain knowledge that isn’t in the classroom. Ask open questions. Why do you do what you do? What do you like about your position? What inspired you to be in that position? Maybe this will result in re-steering your career goals or maybe you’ll meet someone who can provide you with helpful employment advice.
3. Don’t over think your communication skills.
It is very easy to plan out a conversation in your mind. You know the questions that people will most likely ask which allows you to have an answer for them. ‘Perfect’, you tell yourself, ‘I’ll definitely nail this’, and maybe you will. As a result though, we end up losing our authenticity and sound like we are part-robot. If you are thinking about doing this or continuing to do so, stop. You will in fact be doing yourself a disservice. Focus on the conversation itself. As you ask open questions, the other person’s response should have key words (we are fantastic at highlighting key words, let’s put it into practice). ‘Oh, so you’re into human rights? So am I. I recently thought...’ Basically, the content and audience should lead you into conversation flow.
4. Have fun.
Sometimes, we focus too much on why networking is important that we often forget to see the fun in it. Networking is not solely based on gaining as many contacts as possible. It is also about having a good time. Fancy a glass of champagne? Why not. A giggle over a glass of champagne? Even better. This can lead you back to having that genuine smile and a good time, maybe even exciting you for the next event.
Good luck with your next networking encounter.
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