From oral arguments in front of your classmates to the Socratic method most professors still use, law school can be a nerve-wrecking period for introverted students. One practice that may spark panic is networking. Networking events are a crucial part of creating connections and opportunities, but the thought of them may be overwhelming and induce anxiety. While we cannot physically hold your hand for these stressful moments, below are some tips on how to tackle networking events if you are introverted.
Bring a friend.
Bring a trustworthy confidant with you. Sometimes having someone with you will make you feel more comfortable (and sociable!) since you will not feel alone. Be warned that it can be off-putting to potential connections if you are only engaged in a conversation with your friend and not including others. It is best to bring someone who is also interested in the same topic of the event so they can also contribute to conversations and will not feel obligated to stick with you the entire time.
Have default lines ready.
A personal favorite trick of mine is to have a list of default questions and compliments ready to avoid awkward silences. If you prepare a list of lines to use, you will feel more comfortable engaging strangers because you will not be scared of not having anything to discuss. Here are a few examples:
- Where did you go to school?
- How long have you been in (insert field)?
- What is your favorite part of your job?
- I bet you have participated in exciting projects, what is one that stands out the most?
- Do you have any advice for me regarding searching for a job/internship?
- If the person went to your law school, ask about professors they had, journals they were on, or clubs in which they were involved.
- If you are into sports, ask if they are a fan of the local sports team.
It is also a good idea to come up with some questions or conversation starters that relate specifically to the event you are attending. And if the event is law firm reception or some other employer event, prepare some questions that specifically relate to that firm/employer.
Be a listener.
It is a relief to every introvert when you do not have to do all of the talking. Try to find a small group to join so you can listen, rather than lead the conversation like you would in a one-on-one setting. If you are not in a group, still take the role of a listener. Listen to what the other person is saying and ask them questions about what they are discussing. Not only is it nice for the other person to feel like they are being heard, but it removes pressure from you to lead the conversation.
The best way to handle an event as an introvert is by feeling prepared. Most networking events will publish an overview of the event that will reveal who will be there. Take the time to research the professionals and companies so you will be able to identify them at the event and have background information that will help you participate in the conversation. If you are worried about forgetting everything you researched, create a list, and keep it in a padfolio or even your phone. Additionally, if you cannot stay the entire time, you will know who you should connect with before leaving. Tip: Make sure you have business cards with you at every networking event!
Recharge and take charge.
Introverts treasure alone time where they can recharge their batteries. Try to fit in an activity either before or after the event that will allow you to relax. Have your favorite dinner, listen to your favorite song or podcast, read a book, exercise—or do whatever activity grounds you.
It does get easier.
Take comfort in knowing that as you continue to develop your legal career, you will become more acclimated to networking events. After having a few events under your belt, you will become familiar with the atmosphere and will have even developed your own tips and tricks.
By finding what works for you and continuing to network, your networking skills and career will thank you. Just remember to keep calm and network on!
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