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Whether you're on the job hunt, searching for a mentor, or just trying to connect with other professionals, you're going to want to network. Developing a strong professional network lets you keep ahead on industry developments, helps inform you of new jobs and legal opportunities, and provides support should you need advice or assistance.
But, making a connection takes more than a handshake and a business card. If you're a bore -- or a boar -- while networking, you may be doing more harm to yourself than good. So, keep from turning off potential connections by avoiding these three common networking faux pas:
1. Being Unprepared
Learn about the event. Practice your pitch. Bring business cards. It's the networking equivalent of always checking to make sure you have your wallet, keys and phone before leaving the house. Yet, you'd be surprised by how many people don't do basic preparation before networking.
If you're going to a reception, know who is putting it on and why. If you're asking for an informational interview, make sure you've studied up. That way, you won't be left looking foolish or waste folks' time.2. Elbow Grabbing
Now just who you want to meet at the cocktail reception or which presenter you plan on running up to after legal conference? Good, at least you're prepared. Now, be natural. Grabbing someone's elbow (literally or figuratively) and throwing your pitch at them isn't going to ingratiate you. Rather, when you see an opening, approach naturally, make a sincere introduction, and be focused not just on your spiel, but in making a real human connection.
3. Networking with Everyone
While going into a networking situation with blinders on -- "I will talk to the partner at this firm no matter what!" -- is a common networking faux pas, so is having no set goal. There's no need to give your card out to every passing acquaintance or to add an entire guest list to your LinkedIn account. Those are meaningless connections to have if they won't pick up the phone when you call or go out of their way to help you out. Be selective and focus on developing a handful of key relationships, not hundreds of shallow ones.
Remember, networking isn't a one night stand. Follow up with an email -- or better yet, a thank you card. Keep contacts that have helped you out informed of how things went. This way, you'll build lasting connections that you can rely on throughout your career.