Let’s return to Ali, our NextGen Attorney. Ali, fresh out of law school, just decided to start up her own employment practice. Ali’s been working out of her parents’ basement because, well, times are hard. She tried Google AdWords and an online lawyer directory, but neither of them led to any business opportunities. She’s ready to try something new. Let’s help her out and give her some professionalism advice.
Ali spends a great deal of time visiting chat rooms, Tweeting interesting articles, and posting on her “Employment Law for Millennials” blog. Finally, Ali’s parents take her aside. They tell her that, while Web 2.0 is important, it doesn’t hurt to try the old school way – in-person networking. But Ali’s never been to a networking event before. She needs some advice on what to do.
The first thing Ali needs to do is buy this book – “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Yes, it’s over 70 years old, but Dale Carnegie’s advice still resonates today, even for Millennials. This excellent blog post summarizes Carnegie’s approach for a time-crunched audience. Those tips (smile ask questions, listen, use business cards and say the person’s name) should be employed every single time you meet someone new. But let’s be even more practical here. A lot of people don’t know what to do when they walk in the door. So, you walk into a bar association event. You know no one there. What do you do?
(1) Pick up your name tag. Event organizers often stay by name tags. Make conversation with them. Ask them about the organization, their role in the organization, where they went to law school, their practice, family, kids, sports teams. Treat this encounter like you would a first date.
(2) If that doesn’t segue into multiple introductions and conversations, then head to the refreshments. Order a drink. Turn to the person who just ordered one in front of you, who is probably also standing there trying to think of their next step, and introduce yourself. Hey, you’re not fooling anyone. The reason you’re both here is to network.
(3) No luck there either? Here’s another angle – if there’s a speaker at the event, go find the speaker. There will likely be people hanging around waiting to talk to the speaker. Alternatively, you can join a conversation the speaker is currently a part of. You don’t have to say anything. Give a brief smile and step into the circle and listen to the speaker talk. When there’s a natural break in the conversation, hold out your hand, smile and introduce yourself. And knock it out of the park.
(4) Seek out the person who is standing off in the corner alone. The best way to get over your insecurity is to extend yourself to someone else. By drawing someone else into conversation, you will make a friend and possibly a great business connection. I’ve heard more than once that a solid relationship – one that results in business – came about because of this type of first interaction. You don’t need to be the life of the party. Make a couple meaningful connections instead of working a room full of strangers. You’ll feel better and do better because of it.
So will networking help Ali out? We’ll find out next week.