As law students, networking is a big part of what we do. Legal work is a ‘people’ profession, so some skill in dealing with people can be quite handy. Since the stress and obligations that come with law school can easily turn the most social butterfly into a misanthropic hermit, it can be helpful to practise socialising with strangers in order to avoid looking like a desperate lunatic during interviews or professional networking events.
I once heard that a good way to practise socialising and hone one’s networking skills is to go speed dating. Curious, I decided to forego my usual Friday night ritual of drinking alone and watching cat videos to try it out. Give or take some obvious differences (please don’t sleaze on anyone you’re trying to get a job from), there are striking similarities between speed dating and networking. Not only are you meant to impress someone in a controlled environment, the end goal is always to hit it off with those you meet and possibly get some action in terms of either a second date or a job. Here are some of the things that will help you get lucky in either speed dating or networking.
Looking the part
While with speed dating event you might want to look like trophy wife material, with networking you’ll want to look like the competent professional you desperately want recruiters to think you are. Personally, I find that channeling Ann Romney in my wardrobe choices achieves both goals.
Bathing is a good idea. Suiting up is encouraged. In either case, you need to make a good impression within a relatively short period of time. Make sure you at least look like you have it together.
For both speed dating and networking, keep the conversations light, friendly and topical. Refrain from discussing sex, politics, money or religion. There will always be outliers – the creepy old man inviting you to his beach house is essentially one and the same as the speed dater who thinks it’s appropriate to inquire about your favourite position (hint: he doesn’t mean CEO). In both cases, your next steps will be to smile politely as you check off the ‘no’ box by his name, and never contact him again.
During speed dating and networking events, the alcohol is always flowing. This can be a good thing, in that having a glass or two of wine might help you become a master of inane small talk. Conversely, beer goggles never help anyone find Prince Charming and can make you end up looking more like the Wicked Witch of the West than Cinderella. Although it may be tempting to take advantage of free alcohol, keep in mind that a sloppy drunk is neither trophy wife material nor potential new hire material. A good tip to keep in mind at these events is to use your glass as a prop instead of as a vessel to fuel your alcoholism. This will minimise your chances of getting sloshed with the bonus of maintaining a suave, lawyer-like appearance.