The Importance of Networking
It is safe to say that I have been lucky when it comes to having contacts in the industry, which I hope to work within. Joining a Chambers at 19 to clerk gained me a wealth of experience but more importantly had me working alongside 50 members of the bar who could all help me, in any way possible. Friendships were made and I am grateful that I can call on them when I need to. Whilst I say I am lucky, you too can create your own luck by putting yourself out there to create your own network, drawing upon any ties you may have.
Building relationships is a key part of being a lawyer, or in any kind of career. You have to be comfortable enough to chat to people and share thoughts and ideas. Here are some top tips for networking, to ensure that by the time you graduate, you will have a list full of contacts you can draw upon to help you during your journey.
- Start to Network before you need to
You may be in your first year or your final year of study but it is never too early to start networking. The earlier you start, the less pressure you will be under to build relationships and impress people. Take your time and be as natural as you can, attend functions and events throughout your studies and get chatting to people who share your interests.
- Plan what you’re going to talk about
Networking events can be daunting. Most people are out there to help themselves and it is quite different from ‘going for a drink with an old friend’. Essentially, you are there to sell yourself, let people know what you can offer them and also find out what they can offer you. It is important to clarify your talents and skills as to how you can help people. If you’re just a first year and have only studied 30 credits towards your degree, you may think that you’re of little help. The truth is that everyone has something to offer whether that’s now or in the future. For instance, you could say that “for now I’m really good at liaising with clients and shadowing senior people but in the future once I’m qualified my strengths will be…”
- Forget your personal agenda
While you may be tempted to network and talk to people you normally wouldn’t have access to in purely to land a job, that’s a mistake. Instead, make it your goal to be open, friendly and honest, and to forge connections between people who may be able to help each other. Generosity is an attractive quality and it’s something special that people will remember about you
- Never dismiss anyone as unimportant
Make it your mission to discover the value in each person you talk to. Ask questions and listen with interest. Don’t make the mistake of discounting people due to their titles. Someone you meet may ‘just’ be a clerk, but they may have valuable connections or knowledge you’d never learn about if you dismiss them. Then, when the conversation ends, remember what that person has to offer as you move to the next.
- Believe in the power of networking
You can never be at a stage in your career where networking is of no use to you. Attend networking functions and events and put yourself out there. They don’t even have to be legal based events, you could go to a council run function in your local area and talk to people about what they like and dislike about where you live. Before you know it they’ll be interested in your law degree and asking you all sorts!
Written by Sophie Terrington – OULS Careers Coordinator