Article written by Ola Alice, Babcock University, Third year LLB.
According to a survey conducted in 2018, 80 per cent of 3000 people got their jobs because of their network. 78 per cent of recent students, as stated by a business blog, pointed out that networking was important to them in their job search. According to a LinkedIn survey, more than 70 per cent of participants were hired by a company with which they had a connection. All these prelude the fact that networking in any sector or industry can never be underestimated. Networking is a step into the real world.
Cambridge University Press defines networking as “the activity of meeting people who might be useful to know, especially in your job”. Another source defines it as “meeting new people, who share a profession, industry, or interests”. Networking could also mean exchanging professional or social information, contacts, and experience. The common denominator of these definitions is that networking involves meeting new people. Not just for the fun of it but solely as a way of seeking people who can either impact you with knowledge, notify you of diverse opportunities or keep you abreast of the happenings in your area of interest and for law students, improve your commercial awareness.
Keeping in mind what networking means, it is only sufficient that the different ways to network are stated.
Could your first connection be with your close friend? Yes. Could your first connection be with a distant relative? Yes. All you need is to be intentional. Be intentional about creating vital connections keeping in mind that who you know really matters. You could reach out to old friends from college, a distant relative and even your close family members. Just start. Catch up with them and let them know about your current interests. They could refer you to their friends, co-workers, and bosses if they know that your interests match. Gradually, your network will grow.
As a law student, it is important to attend either virtual or in-person events. This could help in making vital connections and growing your network. An example of such event is that organised by Legal Cheek. Legal Cheek is a legal website that organises virtual events and law fairs for students. However, registering for such events beforehand is important. Their events usually have popular law firms in attendance to answer questions that students might have concerning their firm, provide insight into how their firm operates and even speak on general topics. In doing this, Legal Cheek provides students with the opportunity to meet other students and basically network. Another organisation that does this is Bright Network.
The world is evolving so fast that some organisations conduct their businesses solely remotely. This does not reduce the potency of their work and neither does it affect their efficiency. This means that networking could be conducted remotely. It could start with following someone online because you like their content. Then it could proceed to actually initiating conversations with them and subsequently following up. Eventually you could have a solid connection with them regardless of their location. Networking takes intention, especially when it is through a social media platform like Facebook and LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is popularly known as the world’s largest professional network on the internet. LinkedIn opens up a door of opportunities. LinkedIn creates opportunities. LinkedIn notifies us of opportunities. LinkedIn connects individuals in the same industries irrespective of the distance. LinkedIn helps secure job placements. The importance of LinkedIn cannot be underestimated. Reiterating the statistic stated earlier that according to a LinkedIn survey, more than 70 per cent of participants were hired by a company with which they had a connection. Connecting with the people who work in the firm or organisation you are interested in could in turn land you a spot in that firm. This is because those individuals with whom you’ve formed a connection and properly networked with could refer you or recommend you to the firm when an opportunity arises.
There is a common misconception that “if you won’t get paid, don’t do it”, and this continues to be the dilemma of many. As a student, just starting off your career could seem overwhelming if you have not had any experience no matter how little at all. This is why it is encouraged to volunteer when you can. Offer your services to your lecturers by offering to either conduct research work for them, proofread their documents or just help them where you can. This creates a good impression of the kind of lawyer you would be: one that is hardworking, selfless, and ready to learn. Over time you create connections with your lecturers, and they would be glad to inform you of internship opportunities, law fairs and writing opportunities.