How to put yourself out there during a networking event

by Akhila Jaimes

During the early years of law school, life once you leave law school can often seem like it is in the distinct future and thus should not warrant much attention. However, as the degree progresses the reality eventually hits: What on earth am I going to do once I leave university? Often the dichotomy for law students is presented as enter into a large commercial firm or pursuing a career in criminal law, or a more human rights-orientated pursuit. Challengingly, as these career paths are quite broad, necessarily so, students fail to generate much direction from these broad career options.

Here is my guide on how to network, like your life depends on it. It does not matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert. Networking is a crucial skill you need to develop because, as a soon-to-be legal professional, you will discover it is a matter of who you know, not what you know.

Make nepotism work in your favour. Your first networking event can be overwhelming. There will be many professionals in that room, but many students will be in your exact position. Try not to get intimidated. It will be challenging, but confidence is key here. Fake it till you make it.

Refrain from thinking of networking as a professional business transaction where you introduce yourself to someone to make their acquaintance and hopefully manage to get their LinkedIn ID. Instead, internalise that you are there to make friends because a friend is more likely to help you than an acquaintance and vice versa.

Your first time will not be great.

Ideally, go to your first networking event with a friend or try to make a friend who will be like your partner once you are there. Once you are a seasoned veteran, you can go by yourself. Start from one end of the room and work your way around. Depending on the setting, it may be just a bunch of adults in the room. Alternatively, it may be a reception-style arrangement with a few high tables scattered across the room with no chairs. Go into that room with a game plan – make friends.

It will initially feel awkward, but go up to someone, put your hand out, and introduce yourself. For example, shaking their hand, say, ‘Hi, my name is Mike, it is nice to meet you’. 

Tip 1: Do not interrupt someone’s conversation to introduce yourself. If someone is busy, go to someone else and introduce yourself.

When you introduce yourself, you want to get to know them. You can break the ice by genuinely complimenting them. If you did your stalking beforehand, it could be something you resonate with from their professional life, like, ‘Hey, I was reading about your work in XYZ. It got me interested. Could you explain how XYZ worked’. If you do not know who they are, it could be as simple as, ‘Hey, I love your XYZ. Where did you get it from?’. This is your hi Barbie moment.

Tip 2: Investing your time into someone you connect with rather than speed networking is wiser.

Network! Network! Network!

Go to as many networking events as possible to improve at them. You do not have to restrict yourself to formal ones. It could even be events the UTS LSS throws. Remember, the people you go to uni with will become your colleagues once you graduate, so build solid and meaningful connections with them.