Leadership trainer Paul Horwood looks at why young professionals should develop their networking skills from the start of their careers

Networking is a really valuable way to expand your knowledge of other sectors, gain new clients, and tell others about what you and your organisation can do.

At some stage in the future, you will no longer be allocated work, clients and business by partners or senior members of your department, and your organisation will turn to you to generate leads, new clients and business.

This can be very daunting if you haven’t prepared and cultivated a commercial network, but by starting from the very outset of your career, it can be fully developed for when most needed - and that exisitng network of old university friends and peers is a great place to start.

They will also be looking to develop their own network and will appreciate you connecting with them. Remember not to rush this, even though most of your colleagues will also be fairly junior, over time their careers will develop and keep pace with yours and in a few years you both may be in positions that can be mutually beneficial.

But how do you enlarge your network beyond your friends, and how do you diversify it outside your profession? After all, most new clients and business opportunities will probably be working outwith the legal sector.

Attending networking events can be a very useful way to grow your contacts, but it can also mean wasted time and effort if you spend the whole time talking with friends and colleagues from your own office or company - however much you enjoy their company. I want to help make sure you can:

  • Pick the best events to attend
  • Meet the people who will be the potential clients of the future
  • Ensure you are remembered for the right reasons

Making the most of a networking event doesn’t just start on the day. Take time beforehand to understand who is going, who you would like to meet, and what you want from that interaction, whether it is:

  • A follow up meeting
  • An introduction to someone else
  • Background intelligence

Go with a plan to help you maximise your time, and hopefully prevent you simply catching up with old friends in the corner - remember there's nothing to stop you arranging to meet them for a coffee another time.

Find out in advance if someone else from your office going - it can be useful to attend with a more senior colleague who can be a great source of intelligence on who’s who. Make sure you have a full pocket of business cards to hand out and think of some good conversation starters to help you be remembered for all the right reasons.

Paul is leading the Networking skills for professionals course on 3 May at the Law Society of Scotland.

Find out more about our range of professional skills and training courses for 2019.