On the 7th of September, I attended Bright Network Festival at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. Bright Network is an organisation that connects students and graduates with employers and provides training and events. If you haven’t signed up to them already, they are a fantastic organisation with lots of opportunities for all students in many sectors. They are not purely for future lawyers, they run events for banking, business, technology and more. Bright Network Festival is a collation of employers from all these sectors and more, along with workshops and panels relevant to each sector.
There were over 80 businesses and charities in attendance, each with trainees, interns and members of graduate recruitment departments on hand to chat to attendees. It is a great opportunity to network, ask questions and develop skills. And it’s not just the businesses to network with, it was great to meet many other students from across the country (and Europe), in many different degree disciplines.
I attended a panel session for commercial law where it was great to hear about journeys and insight from partners, associates and trainees. I also attended an interview skills workshop, which was an engaging session with non-generic advice. There is a lot of advice surrounding interview skills, but this talk felt relevant. The speaker (Jake Schogger) has produced books to assist students get into careers in the city and I’m looking forward to getting into these. You can find his website here.
I had planned to attend a few more sessions, however, I didn’t want to pass up valuable networking time. I would say it would be difficult to speak to all the law firms (and impossible to do all the stands), and attend all the sessions, so when planning your day next year bare this in mind.
I have a few other pointers for attending Bright Networks Festival (but they could be tailored to any careers event):
- Arrive early – There was a queue forming when I arrived about an hour early. I got straight in the queue and chatted to other students to pass the time, but as a result was one of the first students in the event. This meant I got the undivided attention of the graduate recruiters before crowds began to form. The event was very busy and sometimes you would have to queue to speak to people, so the extra time was a big advantage.
- Go to the workshops early- I was pre-warned of this in the queue, but there were capacities to the rooms that workshops were held in. This meant that some people missed out on popular talks or workshops as they were full. It took a little while to get to the rooms so factor that in too.
- Prepare questions (and backups)- Having a list of who I wanted to speak to meant I made good use of the day. Having specific questions prepared meant that I wasn’t asking the same questions that had already been answered hundreds of time that day, and it will show you have done your research. Sometimes someone else may ask your prepared question, so have a few to go on.
- Keep an open mind – I went to Bright Networks knowing there were certain firms I wanted to speak too, however, I prepared questions for all of the firms exhibiting. Some of the stands were busier than others at different times so I could dip in where it was quietest. This meant I got to talk to all the firms exhibiting and didn’t feel pressured to ask my questions quickly due to a queue of people behind me. I also discovered a firm that I previously hadn’t considered much that completely won me over with their approach, and I am seriously considering for my future applications.
- Take notes – There is so much information to take in at Bright Network Festival, make use of the freebie pens and write things down. It will show you are engaged and care about what the recruiter is saying enough to want to remember it later.
- Don’t stick to your ‘sector’ – If you have spoken to all the firms, or they are quite busy, head over to some of the other stands. I was asking about in-house legal opportunities and got some great ideas for alternative work experience. Some of the exhibitors may be a client of a firm you are interested in so it is a good opportunity to find out more about them, even if you don’t intend to work for them.
Bright Network run other events throughout the year. Most of the event applications for law open in the summer so don’t forget about them! Event applications for other sectors are open currently and the graduate calendar is invaluable! Alongside events and applications, there is some great career advice on the Bright Network website, so I would recommend signing up and staying in touch with them.
See you at Bright Network Festival 2019!
Katharine Cramond, Law student at University of Sheffield. Twitter: @KatcwOU