This is a guest post by Equal Justice Works National Advisory Committee member, Ben Aguilar. Ben is a 2L at Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
Much has been said about the current job market in the legal field. Those of us graduating this year have repeatedly been reminded about the importance of networking since the first day we set foot in a law school classroom. My initial reaction to the networking advice was to ignore it. As a 1L my world revolved around understanding subject matter. I had no time or interest to mingle, I thought it was too early to even give it a try.
A few months into my first year I started to hear stories from recent graduates about their unsuccessful job search. I saw many of my friends struggle to find gainful employment. The idea of finding myself in their position at the end of law school was unnerving. It was clear to me that sitting in class and getting good grades was not enough for those of us graduating in this economy. I did not know where or how to start networking. I did not know how to market my skills, despite the fact that I spent many years working retail and I pride myself on being a good salesperson. It took me a few months to figure out my networking game.
Unfortunately, when I was ready to give networking a try I realized that mingling with attorneys would not come naturally. At first I felt intimidated and I struggled to break the ice and strike meaningful conversation. It took a few attempts and along the way I have learned a few things and I have built a brand for myself in the professional circles in which I move.
Here are a few things I have learned from first-hand experience or from stories I hear from colleagues and friends. I hope you find them helpful.
1) Find a friend or colleague who is one of those few souls who loves to “work the room.” Observe your new mentor networking, see what works, find your own style, and give it a try.
2) Get to networking events on time. It is much easier to meet people this way.
3) Give your target audience your undivided attention. No texting, checking-in on foursquare or updating your Facebook status. Do not ruin your opportunity to make a good impression. I have seen people on their phones at networking events and I was guilty of it in my early networking stages.
4) Networking is not always about your interests. There are times when it is more important to gather information about your target audience and follow up at a later time.
5) You must have a 30-second elevator pitch. Tell your audience what you stand for, the type of internships you have participated in and be prepared to answer questions they may have based on the content of your pitch.
6) Networking is not about collecting business cards. Make a good impression. In order for the business card trick to work you must make sure you connect with your audience in order for him to remember you when he receives an email, resume, or thank you note from you.
7) Join mailing lists and listservs! They are a great way to keep abreast of what goes on in your community and stay current with issues you feel strongly about.
8) Become involved with on-campus student organizations. Student organization leaders are usually aware of events in the community, networking opportunities, internship opportunities, and they are usually good at networking and working the room so use them as resources when attempting to learn the ropes of networking.
9) Connect with alumni. They are usually willing to share stories and give advice. They also make great mentors and you can learn a few things about networking from them.
10) Have the right attitude. These events are relationship builders and not opportunities to sell your services. Be professional at all times, but have fun with it. You never know where you will be offered the opportunity you have been waiting for. As for me, it happened at a Dodgeball tournament where many of the most prominent law firms and legal organizations were participating.Back to