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Alternative ways to network

13th May 2019

Group of professionals in a bar

Networking is a crucial part of success for many careers, especially in the legal sector. Whether you’re looking to land your Newly Qualified in-house legal job, or you’re already an industry professional, networking is great for securing referrals, career opportunities or acquiring clientele.

There are many legal networking events happening across London that provide the perfect environment for many people to make contacts and establish relationships. However, some people excel at networking in a more informal and natural environment. In this article, we’re listing some of the best alternative places to network.

LinkedIn

Person scrolling through their phone on the tube

Social media is great to keep in touch with friends and post funny photos, but don’t forget it can also be utilised as a tool to help further your career. The main platform for professional use is LinkedIn, where you are able to expand your network and connect with possible employers and peers.

We spoke to Dorianne from Your Career Girl, a business that provides support, training and resources to help women excel in their professional lives, to find out her advice for alternative ways to network. She says: “The best place for networking, especially for introverts or for those who don't have the time to attend networking events, is LinkedIn. With over 260 million active daily users, LinkedIn is a great place to launch an efficient and practical networking strategy that gets you closer to achieving your career goals - whether that's landing a new job, getting a promotion at your current one, or switching industries altogether.”

“The great part is that you can do all of this without having to leave the house. Updating your headline and summary sections to showcase your brand, connecting with relevant professionals in your industry and sharing and engaging on the platform are all great ways to level up your networking skills.”

Don’t just connect with people on LinkedIn and leave it there, be sure to promote yourself through regular posts that show your skills. We asked Sarah from Career Tree, a career coaching business located in London for her thoughts: “There are thousands of people on LinkedIn so, to stand out, you do have to put the effort in and this means regular contributions and engagement. You need to respond to comments and comment on other people’s posts.”

We spoke to Margaret Buj, an interview coach that specialises in helping professionals get hired and promoted. Margaret is listed on LinkedIn UK’s Power Profiles in HR, so we asked her to share some of her LinkedIn wisdom: “You should also aim to have at least 500 connections. I’ve recorded a training session on how to grow your LinkedIn network.”

“To nurture your network, you need to engage with them on a regular basis. You can interact by providing status updates regularly, liking and commenting on LinkedIn posts that you find useful and sharing interesting posts with your network. I often share content I find on LinkedIn or other sites such as Forbes or Fast Company that would be relevant to my network.”

Twitter

Other social platforms should not be overlooked for opportunities to network. Sarah continues: “Twitter is also good for networking – there are regular twitter hours where someone will start a discussion group on a particular topic that you can contribute to and make new connections. Although both these options are good, they are no substitute for face to face. You can look for networking events that suit you more so maybe one that is smaller in the number of attendees or feels less formal.”

At the gym

Weights in the gym

When attempting to network at the gym, be conscious that many people won’t want to be approached when they’re red-faced and sweaty. However, gyms are full of professionals during lunch breaks and after work time, so if you happen to start a conversation with someone, be sure to seize the opportunity. Our tip is to always carry a few business cards, you never know when they’re going to be useful.

Sport clubs

Yoga exercise class

Don’t forget that sporting events and exercise clubs are a great place to meet all sorts of people. Sign up to a local sports club such as football or netball, and you can exercise whilst expanding your contacts.

Cordell Parvin has practised law for 37 years, has coached successful lawyers and is now a Senior Director of a law firm and writes the blog Cordell Parvin Blog. He says: “I coached a lawyer who attracted her number one client on the sideline of the football field. I also coached another lawyer who attracted an important client at a swimming event.”

You’ll be surprised at the types of people you can meet at group exercise classes. Join a sports class such as yoga, Zumba or spinning, and see if you can start a conversation with other participants. Cordell continues: “My advice is to hang out where your potential clients hang out and where you have the chance to be the only lawyer in the room.”

Cafes and bars

Two people working at a café

When you’re living in a big city such as London, you’ll notice the bars will be bustling with professional people most evenings. You’ll be surprised how many of these people will continue to talk about work after hours. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself if you’re nearby, however, make sure to avoid being overly eager and formal, instead focus on being friendly and chatty.

Sarah from Career Tree continues: “To be honest you can network anywhere – parties, social events, book clubs, etc. It’s just about making relationships and listening to people. And it’s so true that people won’t necessarily remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel. If you listen to them, show interest and understand their needs you are halfway there.”

When you want to try and network at social events our top tip is to try to forget that’s your motive. Let the conversation flow naturally and focus on making a good impression rather than bombarding people with facts and information about you.

Going to a café is another alternative way to network. Many trendy cafés now have communal workspaces where people can enjoy good coffee, WIFI and a productive environment. Sarah from Corporate Career Girl, a career platform with resources and tools for young women to succeed in the workplace, tells us her ideas for alternative networking: “In terms of physical places to network I would say that both parties should agree on a place where they would both feel comfortable. Nevertheless, cafés, work and office spaces such as WeWork and even libraries tend to be good places to meet and network.”

Community Programs

A great place to network is by participating in a community program. Even if the program doesn’t seem relevant to the legal sector, they provide fantastic opportunities to meet new people.

Lee Holcomb from Lifestyle Lawyer has had three different careers as an attorney and is the author of Lifestyle Lawyer, a book that focuses on how it is possible to be a successful lawyer and still have a life outside of the office. We asked Lee to share her thoughts on alternative ways to network: “I recommend that you explore less legally focused avenues for meeting people. Depending on your goals and the type of legal work you do, community programs that align with your personal interests and values are an excellent way to meet people and make connections.”

“For the past two years, I have participated in events sponsored by the Idaho Technology Council. These events are predominantly designed for technology providers and IT professionals, not lawyers. From a professional standpoint, this is a huge advantage for meeting people. Last week, I was one of three lawyers in a room of 350 people. I’m meeting CEOs, politicians, HR people, and the people working at the top businesses in my city. Look for ways to distinguish yourself from other lawyers.”

You can network everywhere

Man and woman laughing whilst working

The truth is, you can network almost everywhere. It’s important to always be prepared for the next opportunity to meet future employers, new clients or other professionals who can share their expertise with you.

Sarah from Career Tree continues: “Networking has to have a purpose, and once you know your purpose you can find the best place to network. For example, if you want to network to build contacts for your career, then you can work out where the people you need to network with hang out, which could be at Law Society or Institute of  Director events, or it may be at conferences on hot industry topics.”

The secret to networking is to be approachable and prepared, Lee from Lifestyle Lawyer continues: “Everywhere you go is a networking opportunity. Learning how to be comfortable with yourself and your professional story is the most crucial element of networking. Once, you learn how to bring confidence and presence when you interact with other people you will find that more doors start to open in the most unexpected places.”