A foolproof guide to networking

Kaplan Law School held a personal branding and networking day last week. Here’s what we learned:

  • Law firms use networking sessions more and more as a way to assess your people skills. They want to see your ability to work a room while appearing interested in the individuals you come across.
  • Entering a group is tough and very few people are naturally comfortable doing it. Just approach the group, listen to what they have to say and at the earliest natural moment ask a question or make a remark. Don’t hover silently or interrupt. It sounds obvious but it’s tricky when you’re feeling nervous.
  • Refer to people by name at the end of the conversation, it shows you’ve been listening and see them as an individual rather than an amorphous member of the crowd.
  • Good listeners are often the best networkers. Play the long game by remembering people’s backgrounds and tapping them up for opportunities at a later date.
  • It’s hard to move on when you’re nervous about meeting people and feel you’ve struck a chord with someone but force yourself to. You won’t do yourself any favours in the long term by talking to just a few people.
  • Eat before you go. This way you’re not tempted to balance a plate and glass while trying to shake people’s hands and take their cards. As an added bonus, you can be sure you don’t have any food in your teeth while trying your utmost to your most charming and professional self.
  • The above is also important if you’re on your third glass of champagne and starting to feel like you’re crossing the line from confident to woozy.
  • Don’t be shy when it comes to not talking shop. Most partners spend their days (and nights) talking about law. If they start to talk about current affairs or sports then take it as read that it’s ok to go off topic.
  • If you’re at an assessment centre then remember that they will often try to gauge how good your small talk is – if you’re their trainee will they be able to leave you with a client while they take a call?
  • If somebody hands you their card follow up with an email thanking them and saying you’d like to keep in touch. Do it the next day while the occasion is still fresh in their mind.