You’ve heard it too many times to count: Having a strong network is especially important for lawyers.
Turns out, everything you’ve heard is true. Whether you’re just graduating law school, an associate, or a partner, you can never have too big of a network.
While most people know how important networking is, it can still be a difficult or simply uncomfortable experience. Whether you’re an introvert or just aren’t sure how to go about it, you can still increase your network to an effective size.
Get a head start on growing your network by beginning while you’re still in law school—even while you’re still in undergrad. Meeting new people while you’re still a student may feel more natural and less daunting. Be sure to make connections with professors who may be able to serve as mentors, and especially those teaching within your major while still in undergrad. Of course, you should also make an effort to connect with your peers. These associations can last for a lifetime and often prove helpful once you graduate.
Utilize your school’s alumni base
Once you graduate, there are usually a number of groups on Facebook or organized directly by your school to connect alumni. These contacts are generally easy to make since you have common ground to build them upon. You never know how important knowing any one of the people you meet in this way might turn out to be in the future.
Network in smaller events
A lot of the pressure and anxiety surrounding networking can be linked to big and overwhelming events. If you’re the kind of person who feels intimidated by crowds at large events, start small and network at dinner parties or business lunches. Not only will you be more comfortable, but in a more intimate setting you may find it easier to forge connections.
Introducing yourself to new people can often be a bit awkward or tricky. To make your conversations a little smoother and less forced, try to prepare some common responses or conversation starters. If you’re less on edge from thinking about what to say, you’ll appear more comfortable and confident—and likely end up feeling more comfortable and confident, too.
Try more fun events
Try something other than the typical awkward, forced networking events. Meeting in a more relaxed environment, such as a coffee shop or other location that evokes social events rather than uncomfortable work events, can be easier to navigate and allow you to more easily be yourself. Sites like Meetup.com and LinkedIn Groups showcase various events of just about every type. You’re sure to find the perfect networking opportunity for your comfort level.
Attend a conference or workshop
Going to events that are geared towards your career will have you surrounded by those in similar fields who have similar interests. It’s always easier to network with people when you have something to casually and naturally discuss.
Bring along a friend
Networking events can be intimidating, especially when you don’t know anyone. If you’re worried about going to an event alone, recruit one of your friends to accompany you. Having someone you know and trust at your side can be helpful. If your friend is an extrovert, they can also help you to start conversations, and keep things going if you get stuck.
You may never love networking and may always feel some degree of intimidation about meeting new people in a professional situation. But with these various avenues for connection, you’ll be a pro in no time!
Commit to attending at least four networking events or opportunities over the next month. Try different types: Casual, one-on-one, small dinner events, etc. You should walk away with at least one solid connection from each opportunity.