I have good news, and I have bad news.
The bad news is, some of my tips might seem nightmarish.
The good news is that these skills are like muscles; the more you flex them, the stronger they get. Soon you’ll be a networking bodybuilder and you will be effortlessly excellent at open days.
So to business!
Tip #1: You applied for the open day and you got it! Good job! (I knew you would). Now what? You immediately start looking at the vacation scheme / training contract application form.
But why should I bother?: You are not going to turn up at the open day and drift on through with a glazed expression. You are there mining for information. I banged on about research in this post because it is SO important and talking to people at the firm is a key component. But how do you avoid asking pointless questions?
Say an application question was ‘what is a vital quality for a solicitor at Norfolk & Chance?’ I’m going to start by looking at my competencies, and picking the one/s that are the strongest. Perhaps I have a great example of me coming up with a new solution to a problem. Now what I need, is a way to make this relevant to the firm. So on the open day, I’m going to be asking people about the trickiest part of their job. I want to find out when they have devised an interesting solution to a difficult problem. I’m not going to ask them outright, ‘tell me about a time when you problem solved,’ but I’m going to angle my conversations that way. I’m going to make a mental note of the key details (the name of the person, the client, the task and the department) and jot them down when I have a spare moment. Then when I get home, I’ll link it to my competency. (More information on how to link here).
How does it make me look?: Asking questions about the work solicitors do on a day-to-day basis shows that you are putting the time and energy into finding out whether this is the firm/ job for you. Otherwise, you don’t really know what the job entails and you are applying blind.
Tip #2: If there is a presentation, you are going to sit on the front row, in the centre. Everyone else will make a B-line for the second and third rows because they are COWARDS. Ditch whoever you’re talking to if they start herding you towards the back. Sit front and centre.
But why?: Firstly, you’re going against the crowd, which is good for helping you stand out. Secondly, you’re in a prime position to make lots of smiley eye contact with the speaker. They’ll probably remember your face later when you’re at the networking part of the day. And finally, there is an odd psychological effect of sitting in the front row – I genuinely believe it makes you feel more confident.
How does it make me look?: By doing this you are sending out the message: ‘I am excited and engaged by what you are going to say, I am going to make the most of today and I am not childishly afraid that you are going to pick on me.’
Tip #3: At some point the person giving the presentation is going to say ‘does anyone have any questions?’ And you are going to thrust your hand into the air as though they asked, ‘who wants free money?’
But why?: It is a scientifically proven fact** that asking ‘does anyone have any questions?’ incurs a three second stunned silence from 99 out of 100 audiences. You are going to take advantage of this stunned silence by asking a CRACKING question, in a ‘here’s one I made earlier’ Blue Peter style.
**It is not a scientifically proven fact.
How does it make me look?: This shows that you are smart (because there ARE such things as silly questions– I have heard some), confident and prepared. You bothered to prepare a question when nobody else did.
Tip #4: You are going to try to talk to all the professionals who are at the networking event. Obviously this is not always possible based on the size of the event, but you can usually make your way around a good few. What you DON’T want to be doing is nervously huddling with other attendees. They have nothing for you. As soon as you walk into the room, you are going to get yourself a drink (alcoholic or otherwise- no judgement) and make a B-line towards the person who answered your cracking question earlier. Introduce yourself confidently.
Gosh Rosie, that sounds like a lot of work….Do I have to?: Look, you don’t have much time! Don’t waste any of it hiding with other attendees; you have information to mine and great first impressions to make! GO GO GO!
How does this make me look?: If you can confidently wander around a room full of people you don’t know, making polite conversation with everyone, then it is fairly easy for grad. recruiters to imagine you doing this with clients. If you look dreadfully uncomfortable, don’t smile or laugh, stay in the corners of the room not approaching anyone, then it is pretty hard to imagine you’ll be the next rainmaker.
Tip #5: Imagine the scene. You’ve just gotten a drink, you’re looking around the room for a conversation/ huddle to join. Then someone catches your eye. They smile at you and make room in the circle for you. As you’re putting your drink on the table they say, ‘this is Sarah, she works in the M&A department and she’s telling us about the deal she’s been working on lately.’
What. A. Hero.
Why should I do this?: Because it will make the world a better place. You’re not competing with these guys, there are no jobs on the open-day tables. Be a hero, and save someone the awkward wiggle into an unwelcoming huddle.
How does this make me look?: Well, I’d give you a job.