by Patricia ’19
When my friend recently asked me to tag along for a networking event at a Boston law firm, I immediately said yes. Shortly after, however, I started to doubt everything under the sun and began psyching myself out of going—I didn’t have the right clothes, I needed to do homework, I should just go next time, etc. But even while half of my brain was shouting “No!” the other part was encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone and do something that might be essential to my future career. I decided to go. Read on to find out what I learned:
That experience taught me a lot of things in a short amount of time and I wanted to share them with you, reader, in hopes that it can help quench your anxiety if you’re anything at all like me.
#1 Dress appropriately
Networking events usually indicate a dress code. If they don’t, you can rest assured that you should definitely dress business professional. It has always been my philosophy to dress up rather than dress down. At the very least, people will be impressed by you making the effort to look professional. The opposite reaction can be damaging, especially when these are people who can potentially hire you.
#2 Drink or hors d’oeurves—pick one
This tip is courtesy of my friend. You want to pick either a drink or a small plate of food, but never both. When someone approaches you to talk, you want to be able to shake their hand and smile instead of maneuvering a glass of wine, a plate, a napkin, and a full mouth.
#3 Ask good questions
This seems like an obvious one, but you also don’t want to come into a networking event with a script of questions prepared. The best conversations are organic and if you can have a few open-ended questions (nothing that the other party can answer with a simple “yes” or “no”) and focus on really listening to their answers, you will be able to hone in on details you might want to know more about. Conversely, coming in without the script will allow you talk about personal anecdotes or interesting details that you have in common with the other person. Remember, a potential hiring partner would want to know that you’re a nice and interesting person outside of law school.
#4 Ask for business cards
I’d recommend you do this sparingly and only after really making a connection. Asking for a business card just because you want to add it to your collection will make you look like you’re just trying to get business cards. On the other hand, asking for a business card because you enjoyed the conversation you had with someone will make you look like you’re genuinely interested and you will both get something out of the connection.
#5 Follow Up
I like to adhere by a 24 hour rule when it comes to following up. There are plenty of articles online about it, but I want to reiterate its importance. Just recently, I had a follow-up informational interview and the other person mentioned a few times the importance of keeping in touch—again, not simply for professional gain but also because you want to make real connections with your potential future colleagues. A quick thank you email with specific detail about your conversation will help to ensure that person remembers you. Those few sentences are the extra steps you can take to make yourself stand out.
In the past few months of school I have learned more than what my doctrinal classes have taught me. One of the biggest takeaways from this experience is that your attitude matters. If you go into a networking event, or even a social event, with an open mind and ready to meet new and interesting people, those connections will help you (and you them!) in the long run. Plus, who doesn’t like new friends?
Hope these tips helped!