Unfortunately, the structure of university makes it difficult for law students to understand the importance of building professional relationships early. More often than not, the first networking experience is daunting. This guest post by Stephanie Fiteni sets out what law students and grads should do at their next networking event.

Network to Get Work!

It’s a shame how many students and post graduates have a loose idea of what networking is. Looking more deeply, it can mean a stretch of things – from simply meeting new people to marketing a company. All above, professional relationships matter. 
Since my first networking adventure, I’ve learned a lot in a short amount of time. University is only one piece of the puzzle to become a successful professional. University does not teach you how to effectively communicate in a work environment, how to deal with challenging business deals or navigate your way through your working life. Some Universities are becoming more aware of this and therefore, introducing subjects that assist in these key areas. There is one key aspect missing – real practical experience. Here are some tips that I have learned over the years:

Be Genuine  

In one view, networking has a forced nature about it. We all know we are going to be faced with a networking event one day so we might as well meet as many people we can right? Wrong. Networking is not about saying a quick hello. The focus should be on getting to know someone as a person and not ask questions that only benefit yourself such as ‘can you provide me with some tips to get your position?’. Think of it as going to a birthday celebration. Your relaxed, happy, genuine and conversing about everyday topics. Valuable connections begin with a positive conversation.  

Keep an Open Mind  

The networking concept has grown tremendously over the years. Helpful tips are found online just about anywhere. You need to figure out what works for you – whether that is attending smaller events first or with a colleague. There is no ‘right’ way to network. You need to be flexible enough to adapt to different personalities and age brackets. Try not to limit yourself to those who are on a similar career stance as you. Remove the hierarchy chain and begin to value each role and person that you meet.  

Focus on the Conversation Itself  

Asking open-ended questions is a great way to keep the conversation going. It is really easy to fall into a trap where you can only answer a person’s question with a blunt yes or no answer. Nevertheless, if this situation arises, try to broaden your answer and explain why your answer is a yes or a no. Otherwise, it is also really easy to fall into a moment of awkward silence…. Finding out why someone has chosen a particular career path or what they find interesting about it will be valuable to you. For example, you will be able to decide if you have similar characteristics or a skill-set that will enable you to reach the same goal if you are talking to someone with a higher position.  
If you have not noticed already, the word ‘value’ trickles down this blog post. I hope many of you see the value that networking has to offer and have an opportunity to place my top three tips into practice. Even if practice is harder than theory, you will get better at it.  
Good luck.  

This guest post was written by Stephanie Fiteni. Stephanie is a law student at La Trobe University, Melbourne and currently volunteers at two Community Legal Centres. Stephanie hopes to practice Consumer or Property Law.