Lunches, coffees, catch-ups, dinner, drinks, seminars – whatever format it takes, all of these events have networking as a core purpose.
They’re also not in short supply. Young Lawyers generally have ample opportunity to attend events of various kinds with other people.
So the question really becomes – are you making the most of it? Most young lawyers (and plenty of older ones) have a tendency to flounder here – they’re not entirely sure of the end goal, and if they are they’re not sure how to go about achieving it. They get to the end of the function, and think “what was the point of all that?”
With that in mind, here are 5 ways you can ensure that you’re not wasting your time at the next function you attend.
Meet Someone New
Unless you know everyone in the room already, there’s an opportunity here to meet someone new.
As you get more senior, you might want to start targetting who precisely you want to meet. But frankly, when you’re a junior lawyer, every other person that you haven’t met before is a potentially useful contact. At the very least, the process of meeting them will get you more practiced at how to go about doing it.
Fundamentally, meeting someone new is not difficult – you identify a face you haven’t seen before, and then you walk up and introduce yourself.
But less simple in practice. So here’s a few ways to do it.
First – pick your timing. Wait until they are available, lagging in their existing discussion, or otherwise open to new conversation.
Second – ideally find one of your own colleagues or contacts who knows the person and get introduced. If you’re at a function between different firms (eg lawyers and accountants) then this should be fairly easy. Just ask someone you know. A personal introduction is always far better than a “cold” introduction. However, the reality is that everyone knows your at a function to meet people (and so are they) so there really shouldn’t be a lot of barriers here.
Third – match up your age. To the extent it’s possible, initially you might want to be building up contacts around your own age or seniority. Frankly, it’s simply easier to have a conversation with people who meet that criteria. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but just smooths the way.
Don’t hang around your own colleagues
Networking is not about having a casual drink with your own colleagues. It’s (usually) about developing relationships with external parties. If you find yourself in a discussion with 5 of your current workmates – LEAVE.
Exchange Business Cards
I’ll bet that most of you still have a huge pile of bulk ordered business cards in your drawer.
First – make sure you take plenty of them.
Second – hand them out, and get ones from people you meet.
This serves two purposes – it means you can double check their name if you forget it. It also means you get can an idea of what position they hold if it doesn’t become obvious during the discussion. While it’s nice to meet the IT person working in the firm, and you might get along famously, chances are that organising a follow up with them isn’t going to be that beneficial to your firm.
Don’t Speak with Too Many, or Too Few, People
There are two dangers at networking functions – trying to speak with everyone, and getting caught in a colossal discussion with only 1 person.
The first means that your chance to further develop relationship with anyone is severely limited.
The second means that you’ve probably gotten stuck with someone boring (unless the function is only 10 minutes long) – or that YOU are the boring person and your conversation partner can’t escape from you.
Ideally, try to catch up with a couple of existing contacts if you have any, and meet at least one new person. Three or four relationships per function is generally a good outcome so far as I’m concerned. The only exception here is if you know most people at the function really well, and so your job is “maintenance” of the relationship – in which case a quick catch up with a reasonable number of people is fine.
Arrange the Next Catch Up
Whether you’ve met someone new or not, just the networking you are doing to arrange (even informally) the next catch up. Things like “I’ll give you a call and we can grab a coffee next week” allow you to take the inroads you have made and further develop them.
Bearing in mind that networking is just about developing relationships, if you get in the habit of pre-arranging at least one catch up at each function you attend, then you will be able to productively fill in the gaps between functions with others.
These are some basic strategies to make sure you’re not wasting your time and your employers’ money. There’s plenty more, but if you do these to get started then you’ll be on the right track.
Got any other ways you make the most of your networking functions? Let us know in the comments!