It has been an incredibly long time since I posted on my blog about something law related. There is no real excuse for it other than that I was just relaxing and taking some time to myself and also I didn’t feel motivated or inspired to write anything with real value or substance. However, I found myself a few days ago thinking about confidence and what it means and how people demonstrate it. I was watching the X-factor actually and noticed a common theme surrounding confidence. It was interesting to watch how the contestants communicated with their audience and the judging panel, I noticed that a lot of the contestants displayed signs of nerves. A lot of the contestants appeared shy and awkward when on stage, understandably of course. Although having watched both the British and American one I noticed a key difference. The Americans seemed more confident and were engaging fully with the judges, audience and cameras. It was not surprising if I am totally honest, rather it was intriguing. I wanted to know why our American friends across the pond were more confident. I came up with a few ideas, perhaps they were more open in America, not so conservative; that their education system enabled people to be outgoing and confident and just in general that they weren’t afraid. But what do you think?
Therefore, this got me thinking, about my everyday life- I wouldn’t say I am the most confident person in a room full of people and I most definitely would not be able to go on X-factor. However, I do network and I meet new people every day, whether I am at my part-time job, volunteering or indeed attending law firm open days, insight days and events. Attending these events truly does require some confidence and extroverted ability to go and strike a conversation perhaps with a trainee, a paralegal or maybe the partner or HR team.
In fact, today, I attended an event hosted by Geldards, in Cardiff. I always attend these events solo because I think it allows you to truly engage with the firm and future colleagues rather than just talking to your friends and drinking wine. I was among around 30 students selected to attend the event. Accordingly, the event began with a presentation about the firm, its training contracts. However, it was quite different to a lot of firms I have previously attended in that the David Williams, the Chairman of Geldards, spoke about the business plan and strategy as opposed to the legal advice side of it. This was rather useful, as I learnt more about the role in which the firm plays as a business and how I could potentially fit into that. After the presentation, it was time for networking.
The Cambridge Dictionary provides a definition of networking as the process of meeting and talking to a lot of people, esp. in order to get information that can help you. Inevitably students find networking a vital and valuable skill and process that can further their careers and lives. However, a problem ensues when a student finds it difficult to meet and talk to people. What I mean by this is that some people, I included, find it difficult to spark up a conversation with an unknown person. This is particularly because I am not very confident and not an extrovert, I am indeed, an introvert. I find it tricky to walk up to someone and just talk. However, I am trying to overcome this by attending these events and putting myself out there. Last year, I attended more than a dozen law firm events solo. I forced myself into situations that I would normally find very uncomfortable, I hate small talk. I don’t know how to small talk and I am dreadful at it. Of course, small talk is a large part of networking. Despite my lack of confidence and introvertedness and awkwardness, I equipped myself with a list of questions and tried to prepare to the best of my ability for these events. Though, it was no help. The first event I attended I sat in the corner eating the nibble provided, not talking to anyone. The second event I attended, unfortunately, I, did the same. However, on my third event, I managed to make two friends and learnt that they too felt the same way and were just as nervous, which made me feel a lot better. By the fourth event, I knew the deal, I just forced myself into a conversation and stopped hiding. Now I feel like a pro, I know the deal, I know what happens, how others may feel and what to say and do.
So, here are my 5 tips for networking as an introvert/ non-confident person:
- ATTEND AS MANY EVENTS AS YOU CAN
Practice makes perfect and you are not alone. I can assure you there will be at least 2/3 other people in the room who feel just like you.
2. BE KIND AND FRIENDLY AND APPROACHABLE
Don’t fold your arms, don’t be on your phone, don’t look down. Make eye contact with others say hi, ask someone how their day was. It could be the start of a new friendship.
3. DON’T BRING A FRIEND
If you bring a friend, you will inevitably spend more time with them than meeting new people and doing what you are supposed to be doing- NETWORKING. Everyone else is in the same boat, don’t be that fool who doesn’t make an effort.
4. BE EARLY
You are more likely to meet someone and “be in the same boat” if you are early to the event, it also gives you more time to talk to people before a presentation or otherwise begins, also gives you a chance to have someone to sit next to if there is a chance to talk.
5. JUST DO IT!
There is no other way to overcome your fear other than just doing it before I attended these events I was so nervous and hated talking to people, now it’s easy. It is now a routine of going up to someone shaking hands and saying, ‘I’m Jessica, nice to meet you, what’s your name?’
P.s most networking events have alcohol to get loosen everyone up, everyone is probably just as nervous as you are, just take the reigns and start a conversation by saying ‘Hi’.