Check out these tips for networking!
Something that gets thrown around university a lot is the need to network to be a well rounded applicant for internships and grad jobs.
From what I hear from friends and acquaintances, it’s very daunting and people usually have no idea where to start and feel awkward as hell while doing it.
I’m here to tell you that it’s not as scary as you might think. Here are some simple tips to get in the game and start building your network in the law.
Set your mindset
Don’t go in there with the goal of getting a job.
I know it seems like that’s the end goal sometimes, especially if it’s part of the clerkship process. But this is where a lot of people’s anxiety comes from. If you go in there thinking it’s a test, you will unfortunately come across as artificial. This is not how you want your conversations to go, you want them to be natural. Trust me, coming across as lax and easygoing is preferable than coming across as someone who simply wants to impress and doesn’t care about forming proper relationships (i.e. the point of networking).
What you should frame it as instead is a chance to get to know people in the profession. So in order to keep it natural, just go up to people and introduce yourself, shake their hand and ask them what area of law they practice. From there, ask them questions (without being interrogating) such as “what are you working on at the moment?”, and “what’s a typical day like”, etc. From there, the conversation will be able to flow naturally and you will not only make a connection, but you will also learn something. Not to mention it’ll settle your nerves a bit!
Have some questions in mind
Before you go to the event, have a think about what type of event it is and form questions around that topic. Is it a firm networking evening? Is it a seminar? Is it a university event? Here are some questions you can ask people at these events:
What area of law do you practice in?
What’s your specialisation?
How long have you been in the law?
What advice would you have for someone trying to get to where you are?
What do you find particularly interesting about this topic?
How did you form an interest in the topic?
How could someone get involved in this cause?
Ask them if you can stay in touch
After you’ve finished speaking with someone, ask them if you can stay in touch. If they say yes, ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn, and do so later (don’t get on your phone while networking). If they say no (and they won’t be rude about it), just thank them for their time and move on to the next person you want to speak to.
Don’t pretend that you know more than you do
If it’s a firm networking-type of event, you might have the tendency to talk yourself up, especially if you think it’s a test to see whether they want to hire you.
Please don’t fall into the trap of talking about things you don’t know for a couple of reasons: one, you’re just a law student, chances are you won’t know half of what the person you’re talking to does (especially if it’s a Partner!). Two, networking evenings don’t strictly have to be about work.
They’re probably not expecting you to be a genius, and you should use the opportunity to get to know people (see tip 1), rather than coming across as someone who is simply just trying to climb over others to appear the best – and comes across as unnatural while doing so. Be humble, because if you just spend the whole time talking about yourself, you’ll just sound like a douche. And they won’t want to hire a douche, unfortunately.
Last tip: relax! I promise you that it’s not as bad as you think. Just act natural, and you will be okay.
The [Pre]Lawyer in Black
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