This past summer I had the opportunity to meet hundreds of attorneys in the Chicago area. I went to firm receptions almost every week and initially I dreaded them. That awkward moment when you walk into the room and don’t know anyone really made me uncomfortable. But, as the summer progressed I began to love these events and that nervous feeling quickly subsided.
In law school everyone talks about networking, but what is networking? Most people look at networking as an opportunity to get someone to do something for you. “If I network with the hiring partner at this firm, he’ll offer me a position in the spring.” Let me tell you, thats totally wrong!
Networking is simply making genuine connections & building relationships. It’s no different than meeting new people at law school orientation or getting to know someone that sits next to you in class. I walk into every “networking” event with the intent to just have fun. I realized all I had to do was let my personality lead conversations. It’s OK to ask someone how their weekend was, what they do for fun, and where they like to shop in Chicago. You can connect with someone on so much more than law school/being an attorney.
I’m sure this sounds like a broken record, but networking is incredibly important. So rather than lecturing you all, here’s some practical skills you can use at any networking event.
Before attending the event
- Create objectives
- Ask yourself, what do I want to get out of this event?
- Think of easy questions that will spark conversation
- I almost always ask, where are you originally from?
- Think of what definitive next steps you will take
- If you made a connection with someone, what steps will you take next? Ask for a business card, set up a coffee date, or find them on LinkedIn.
During the event
- 1’s & 3’s, but never 2’s
- Approach people who are either alone or in a group of 3 or more. You never want to interrupt a 2-person conversation.
- Buddy system
- Start out with a buddy! This always makes me feel more comfortable, walking around with someone is much easier.
- It’s nice to see you
- Start conversations with this. No one likes the awkward “nice to meet you” when I’ve already met you. O_O
- Leave with 3 good contacts
- This isn’t always going to happen but shoot for 3
- They are all human, just like you.
After the event
- Send follow up emails and thank you’s right away
- I always try to follow up as soon as possible. A simple email with a “It was so nice meeting you at the reception last night” is all it takes.
- Maintain the relationships. Keep in contact
- Don’t forget about the people you meet! Keep in contact, reach out every few months. Relationships aren’t built in one day.
I hope you find these tips helpful! Let me know if you have any networking tips in the comments 😀