The phrase ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ is something which I have heard many times throughout my education. Yet I am not sure if I ever really understood the importance behind the meaning, until I began to think about my career prospects.
Networking should not be overlooked in any industry and as law firms are becoming increasingly business orientated, having links is a necessity in order to open doors in a competitive market.
So what is networking?
Networking is best described as making a collection of associates and keeping this connection active. This can be achieved by regular communication and is for the mutual benefit of all parties involved. Networking is not based on what you can get but how you can help.
For many, networking is not considered to be one of the most important attributes when preparing for a job and a lot of prospective employees will put their experience and qualifications necessary, above the power of knowing people in the industry. However, being acquainted with people in that industry could set you apart from everyone else.
Over 60% of jobs are being filled in a ‘hidden market’. This means that, unless you know someone in that company, you will not see a job advertisement anywhere.
However, networking is not just for people who are looking for a job, it is applicable to all professionals who want to expand their links and ultimately stay in a competitive industry. According to Lexis Nexis, networking can allow you to:
- Enhance your profile in the industry;
- Share and gain information and thoughts;
- Get insight into other opinions so that you can take those on board and make changes.
Who should I network with?
It is not just about networking with people in Law. Networking can also be applied to people in professions other than your own. It can be helpful to know people in areas such as accountancy or business in case you need to refer clients to different people and, in turn, those connections can refer clients to you.
As a student what should I be doing?
Whether you are a fourth year student or a first year student or even a post-grad, it is never too late to begin networking. Networking events are running all of the time, you could volunteer at an organisation or join a student society and there are plenty of law firm networking opportunities. For example, Ward Hadaway recently hosted a networking charity quiz night. This is a perfect opportunity to make some links with a top law firm.
So what should you do before you turn up to a networking event?
In order to avoid awkward silences you should do some research beforehand. Try to find out who will be attending and prepare some questions which are relevant to their field. Questions are a really important part of networking as people enjoy talking about what they do and it shows you are interested in their personal careers.
How can I catch people’s attention at an event?
Preparing a short pitch can help you keep other people’s attention. Your pitch should include who you are, what you’re studying and what you want to do after university.
A business card is a useful tool, but do not hand these out unless somebody asks for it! However, if a professional gives you their business card, use this to search them on social media and send a follow up email or tweet.
This blog post was written by Charlotte Padgett. Charlotte is a final year MLaw student at Northumbria University currently working in a business and commercial firm in the Student Law Office. In September, Charlotte is planning on working and volunteering in Australia for one year. Her interest outside of law include animal welfare and travelling.