September 12, 2023
By Precious Odunaiya. In the competitive legal sector, networking plays a pivotal role in building a successful career. However, when it comes to corporate social events, I’ve always dreaded the networking aspect of it. Even though I have been going to networking events for over four years, it doesn’t seem to have gotten less nerve-racking. However, my experience and lessons learned does mean that regardless of how I feel, I am always successful in making impactful connections. Here are some tips on how you can navigate networking if you are on the more introverted or inexperienced side.

Find A Networking Buddy

Firstly, networking is much easier and more enjoyable when you are doing it with someone else. One of the first things I do whenever I enter a venue is try to find at least one buddy I can attach myself to for the duration of the event. You may worry that you are annoying them, but it’s something that everyone does and appreciate. If you find yourself by someone’s side throughout the event and you’re not just following them around, then you can be more assured that they have naturally gravitated to your personality and energy.

Having a networking buddy makes networking less intimidating for me and at least ensures that I have made at least one successful connection. It also gives me the opportunity to learn some networking ideas from them. Moreover, I believe that people are more likely to approach you when you are not alone.

In terms of what I look for in a networking buddy, I usually look for someone I already know or who I have the most commonalities with. You may naturally find yourself accompanying each other throughout the event, or you can just straight up ask to hang out with them. You do not have to stay with this buddy the whole time, and as you get more confident you may find yourself drifting off to other (groups of) people.

Whenever I go to a networking event now, I make a buddy in the first few minutes and many times, people have asked us if we already knew each other because of how close we become. I usually make parts of my journey home with them also. That could speak more to my quality of being able to make friends quite easily, but networking and making friends follow the same principles.


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Use Your Spaces

Sometimes, I would get so overwhelmed by networking that I would stay in a corner away from others. The connections I make would usually come to me and we would have our own conversations. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you should always step away to give yourself time to recuperate. But in general, it is not advisable to isolate yourself from others.

Even if you are feeling anxious, it is important to find yourself in a space with other people. Use spaces to your advantage. Even if you are not engaging in active conversation, when you are around other people, it is more encouraging for someone to approach you for conversation – taking the pressure off yourself.

Also, if you want to hear what others have to say but do not want to initiate conversation, you can walk around and join a group who are already listening to someone speak. If you are feeling confident, you can join the conversation and ask a follow up question (if the other person has finished with theirs).

After the speaker the group are listening to is finished speaking, they usually give out their contact or personal details. You can also take advantage of this and get their information then instead of having to personally approach them. Over time, of course, the goal is to be confident enough to approach people and make individual impact. Utilising your spaces is a good way to get used to the ‘format’ and patterns of networking events.

Prepare Questions

To make your networking experience les pressuring, you can prepare a mental list of standard networking questions to ask people when you first meet them. For example:

  • What do you hope to do in the future?
  • What do/did you study in university?
  • Do you have any advice for…?

This is an easy way to get the conversations going and develop a conversation based on something the other person mentions. The goal is to ask these questions in a natural way – it should feel like a conversation.

Be Flexible

If you haven’t had much experience with networking, you may try to predict how the event may go or plan how you will do things. Of course, there will be a main purpose for the networking, but your conversations can and may take a completely different direction.

Go with the flow of the conversations in the room and what interests you in that moment of time. Of course, if you have specific things and information you want to get from the networking, make sure you get that. But this doesn’t have to occupy all of your networking.

Break The Ice By Being Honest

You can decide, off the bat, to be completely honest and let the people you are speaking to know that you are feeling anxious about networking or need some help with it. It’s important to remember that people who attend networking and social events want to talk to you and most people I’ve met have been lovely and eager to ‘help’ me.

Letting people know how you feel can encourage them to keep the conversation going for the both of you. Moreover, they may help you by sending people your way or guiding you on who to approach. It can also be a good way to simply break the ice – making things less rigid and less formal.

Get People Talking

Let’s not beat around the bush: successful people LOVE talking about themselves. Asking people questions that give them the opportunity to do so takes the pressure off you to generate conversation. Typically, people who have the space to talk about their passions end up enjoying the conversation.

Ask Others For Advice

Not only does it break the ice, but I believe this little trick is useful in already establishing that mentor or mentee aspect I hope to achieve from the relevant people I network with. You also leave with valuable tips!

Key Takeaways

  • Find a networking buddy
  • Always stand around others and interesting conversations
  • Be open and flexible
  • Find ways to break the ice
  • Be assured that people want to talk to you
  • Have a goal in mind


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