Networking tips & tricks

The valuable soft skills to help you land your first job and advance within your career.

What is networking?

Firstly, what isn’t networking? It is not just swapping information with another person, or begging for a job from someone who probably doesn’t even have a job for you.

Networking is about establishing and maintaining relationships to have a mutually beneficial, professional relationship, it’s not all about what you can get off someone but indeed what you can offer them too. Yes, even as a student, you have a massive amount to offer someone within a networking relationship. It’s a given that well-connected people tend to do well professionally.

Types of networking

As a student, you should be networking to help with your decision making around your career. No idea what a lawyer actually does? Go ask one what they do. Do you think criminal law may be for you? Find out what a career in criminal law entails from someone who currently practices criminal law. Take any opportunity given to you to grow your networks – employer presentations, alumni networking events, mentoring programmes, industry seminars, and conferences, etc. These events are perfect for practicing your networking as these people want to meet students! You may be busy throughout the academic year but it’s always worth the time invested.

During the recruitment season, you may be invited to a networking event before or after an interview. In these scenarios, the company wants to ensure that you are a good fit for them. With a few simple things to keep in mind, you can ensure that you are presenting a great impression of yourself. If possible, know which staff members are going to be there and do your research on them before the event. 

Growing your network for the sake of growing your network. You don’t necessarily need a reason to network. Take any opportunity you can to meet new people and build meaningful, mutually beneficial, professional relationships.

If the word ‘networking’ makes you want to weep, know that you’re not alone. There are plenty of professionals who feel the exact same way that you do. But with some tips and practice, you can feel more confident and relaxed for any networking opportunity that comes your way.

Tips for success

Be yourself but be professional 
This is not the time to go into great details of your Saturday night adventures. No point in trying to be someone you’re not, it’s tiring and hard to keep going over a whole night.

Come with a friend
Coming to a networking event with a friend is a great idea, it can help if you’re feeling a little awkward. Do not just stay at the side of the room chatting exclusively to your friend. This is a complete waste of your and your friend’s time. You cannot network by osmosis.

Do your research before coming to an event 
Even if you don’t know exactly who is going to be at the event, you can research the organisations present or indeed if you’re at an industry event e.g. a seminar on refugee law, read up on current issues within refugee law within NZ and globally.

Have a few good conversation starters in mind before you go to an event
Asking people about their careers and their current job and organisation is a great way to start chatting. Be more interested in them than in yourself.

Ask open-ended questions (google some good examples of these)
If you feel after a few open-ended questions that the person is not interested in talking to you, move on and go talk to someone else. You won’t hit it off with everyone.

Do not get drunk
 This should be obvious.

Do not just expect people to come to you
Chances are people wont come to you. You may come across as extremely shy or arrogant.

Be inclusive
If you see someone else alone or trying to break into a conversation, take a step back and make space for them. Do not monopolise a person for the whole night, move around and meet a few people.

Treat everyone equally
While the managing partner may seem like the most influential person in the room, being rude or dismissive of catering staff or other support staff is not a good look and people talk.

Networking is a skill, not a talent, you only get better at it if you do it regularly. Go to events and keep trying to hone your skill.

Useful Links

The Hidden Job Market, Careers NZ

Career Advice for Law Students, GradNewZealand

Networking Doesn’t Have to feel Scary, Career Coffee Chats