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As the saying goes, there’s only one letter between networking and not working, yet it turns out the parties, after-hours drinks in the office and dinners so beloved of the legal industry do have a serious purpose. Making and sustaining connections has a real impact on your career, especially if you’re just starting out in your legal career, or as a freelancer. So, with coronavirus restricting get-togethers in person in the UK, how can you “NFH” successfully?

Practise making contact with a purpose

The easiest way to grow your network is to ask people you know to make introductions to other people they know. Again, be honest and straightforward in your approach. Make sure you share why you are asking for the introduction, people can be protective of their contacts so don’t breach their trust by then using it for another purpose. If you’re attending virtual events or webinars and the organisers don’t offer to make introductions, then it’s fine to ask if they’ll connect you with another guest (though bear in mind that they’ll have to ask their permission first so be selective!). When you are starting a new project in a company, make sure that you’re properly introduced to the teams you’ll be working with, ideally by the person hiring you. It’s in their interest that you build a productive network quickly, but if for some reason they don’t do this, then ask a contact in the team who they think you should get to know around the organisation and introduce yourself.

Give to get

A useful principle to follow when you are building your personal brand but especially for networking. If you’re asking for an introduction, offer to make one in return. If you’re asking a contact to help you in some way, make sure you listen out for ways you can help them in return. Or, if you can’t help them, perhaps you can “pay it forward” and help someone else they know.

Work your LinkedIn account

In the age of remote-working, LinkedIn is no longer optional! We’ve already covered some of the fundamentals earlier in this series. Make sure you use every opportunity LinkedIn has to offer to stay in touch with people or break the ice with new contacts. Join relevant Groups if you haven’t already. Comment on posts – and suggest making a connection by DM if you have something useful to offer or you’d like to take the conversation further. Share posts of your own and start a conversation online. Pick up on details of webinars and virtual events that you can attend by following relevant companies and trade bodies.

Set yourself a target

It can be easy to let your network slide because more pressing tasks get in the way. Or because you’d rather do something else. To make sure prevarication and a busy schedule don’t get in your way, set yourself a target each week. It might be to contact one person that you haven’t been in touch with in the last six months. Or to make a certain number of useful new connections. Once you’ve decided on your goal, be realistic about how much time you’ll need to achieve it and set this aside in your diary just as you would any other work.

Putting it all together

Make time to network, whether you’ve just started a new project or you’re looking for new opportunities. Networking remotely requires more discipline and a bit more creativity, but can also be more productive as it forces you to focus on connecting with purpose.

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