Proctor : March 2017
30 PROCTOR | March 2017 Networking 101 Build your knowledge, relationships and personal brand Networking is one of the most important skills for a lawyer to develop. Many young lawyers find it daunting or uncomfortable, but by knowing why, when and how to network, even an introvert can master the skill of (and even perhaps enjoy) networking. Why do we network? To build your knowledge and relationships In an age where we can do everything from our computers and smart phones, stepping out of the office and connecting with people face-to-face still holds significant value. Ultimately most people prefer doing business with friends and likeminded people. An excellent lawyer will be a trusted adviser and confidant to their clients, and that relationship cannot be built and fostered from behind a screen. Among other things, networking creates relationships and opportunities, facilitates communication, enhances your industry knowledge, and allows you to establish a career support structure. To build your personal brand A term that is used often in networking circles is ‘personal brand’. Essentially your personal brand is your reputation – it’s what other people say about you when you’re not in the room. Your personal brand isn’t all about your technical skills and the quality of work you produce; it’s about who you are, what you do, and how you do it. It is important to identify strengths and weaknesses in your personal brand, and to work to continually improve yourself. By improving your networking skills, you are strengthening your personal brand. Networking opportunities There is no shortage of networking opportunities for young lawyers. Networking isn’t all about connecting with clients and potential clients. It encompasses building relationships in a far broader network, including colleagues and members of the wider legal profession. Firms and other organisations will often host networking events for their young lawyers to attend. This may include information presentations, informal drinks, formal cocktail parties, lunches, dinners and entertaining clients at sporting and cultural events. These events are great opportunities to network and build relationships with people within different sectors of your firm as well as your peers. Network outside your organisation. External seminars, conferences, social events and alumni events are great opportunities to meet new people. Joining societies and industry associations will allow you to connect with like-minded people and keep up to date with industry developments. Networking opportunities are not limited to pre-arranged events. Informal networking can take place online through social media platforms such as LinkedIn or simply in elevators, coffee shops, airports and public transport. Networking tips and tricks Some important tips and tricks to improve your networking skills are as follows: Research and prepare: Research the attendees (including their jobs, employers, industries) before attending networking events, set some goals (such as a number of people you’d like to meet), think about some current affairs or current industry trends to discuss, bring business cards and turn up with a good attitude and looking well-presented. Know how to join a conversation: Joining a conversation ‘cold’ can be difficult and sometimes awkward. Look for others who appear to be stranded, smile as you approach people, make eye contact with members of the conversation, use others as an introduction and start conversations while queuing for food or drinks. Prepare to talk about yourself but ditch the sales pitch: First impressions are incredibly powerful. Have a 30-second description of yourself, and what you do, ready to use when necessary. However, keep this introduction casual and appropriate to the forum – remember you’re not at an interview. Have meaningful conversations: It’s okay to start with small talk, but always be curious, authentic and sincere when conversing with others. Aim to ask both open and closed questions and actively listen to what others are saying. Be polite and confident: Shake hands, remember and use people’s names, maintain eye contact and acknowledge others. Have an exit strategy: Think of some ways to politely exit a conversation – for example introduce someone new to the conversation and politely move on, or use a spontaneous interruption to ask for a business card and politely bring the conversation to an end. Follow up: To build relationships is important to follow up with people you have just met after a networking event. Ask for business cards, connect with people on LinkedIn or send them articles about topics you may have discussed or you think would be of interest. After the initial follow-up, continue to stay in touch by catching up informally or inviting them to other events.