Some of us relish at the thought of networking, be it some post-work drinks with colleagues or an exclusive invite-only event bustling with prospective clients, while the rest of us recoil in horror at the very mention of the word. No matter which side you fall into, Christmas throws up a plethora of opportunities for a trainee to explore new connections and reinforce existing relationships.
The following advice aims to provide a springboard for you to dive headfirst into December brimming with confidence ready to enjoy the networking opportunities that lie ahead this month.
I would suggest where possible, that you ask in advance. Where the invite provides some help, you will likely find they have opted for one of the following:
- black-tie: dress-to-impress - don your bow-tie or adorn yourself in an over-the-knee number
- suits: intended for people to stop-by after work - dress sharp but ensure you can feel relaxed in what you’re wearing
- formal: time to glam up - 2 rules (1) no jeans; and (2) no trainers
So you are invited to an event by someone senior in the team or an invite is extended to you personally… A little bit of nerves can be useful to pave the way but then put those to bed and use the event as an opportunity. Do not be hesitant to approach people, they expect to be approached at these things. Be respectful and ensure you do not disrupt people’s conversations but wait patiently for a window and introduce yourself. If it is not an event with name badges then start with your name and where you work and let the conversation go from there. If you treat the situation as though it were a night out with friends you would be surprised how easily the conversation flows. Whether it is a difference in age or profession, remember that they are people too and are likely feeling pretty similar about the prospect of having to make conversation with people they have never met before.
Fly the nest
Sitting at a table with a group of friends from work for the entirety of the night is lovely but do not pass on the opportunity to further your career externally. Grab a colleague or two and go off and make new friends. Even if the conversation proves to be fruitless or a little on the dull side, the experience will help develop your confidence, so no endeavour is wasted.
The work Christmas party
Now is your time to shine within the firm. Whether you are making moves to warm up your next seat or there are people in the office you would like to get to know a little better, the rules are slightly more relaxed at an internal event and you should make the most of it. Some of the standard rules still apply of course, so keep your wits about you and be polite but don’t be shocked to find people full of festive cheer and willing to engage in conversation - similarly don’t be surprised if the last thing they want to discuss is work!
A tipple or two
Whether you are a good drinker or not, now is not the time to be challenging someone to a Jägerbomb downing contest. Instead, follow every alcoholic drink with a glass of water and always remember to eat before! If you’re anything like me then nerves can induce anxious sipping, so beware! Remember: law is for life, not just for Christmas, so the last thing you want is to make a name for yourself in these early stages…
To business card or not to business card?
As frustrating as it is, there is no black-and-white approach to the business card scenario. I would recommend that after each successful exchange follows an exchange of details of sorts, even if that is simply getting their full name so you can have a browse on Linkedin the following day.
No. Although no one wants to be the party pooper, whenever in doubt: professional > fun, everytime.