By Hillary Mantis
On campus interviewing season is winding down. You’re already checking the same three job websites every day. What else can you do to increase your chances of finding a job? Well, you could try networking.
But I feel uncomfortable doing that, you say. I’m not one for introducing myself to strangers. Does it ever work, anyway? That’s the reaction I often get when I bring it up. Yet, I have known it to work, over and over, for even the shyest people.
Here are some tips:
Email Networking: For the really shy, or networking averse, you can just contact people by email. Who to contact? An easy place to start is by selectively contacting alumni of your law school or college. How to find them? Look on your school’s Linked In group, their on-line alumni directory, your school’s mentor program, or in the Martindale Hubbell on-line law directory (www.martindale.com).What should you say? A brief email referencing what you have in common, and asking for career advice, or to brainstorm with them about their career in a particular practice area is appropriate. If all goes well, you can progress from the email to a one-one meeting where you can ask them about their career path, and what suggestions they have for you.
Networking at School Events: If you are interested in a particular practice area, try to be one of the students or graduates who attend the numerous panels held at your law school. Don’t be the person who reads the email and does not go. Once you are there, feel no pressure. Just listen to the remarks. If there is someone you would like to meet, briefly introduce yourself at the end of the panel. Feel no pressure to sell yourself. Just get their card, or look them up on Linked In and contact them later. You can tell them you enjoyed their remarks, and ask for advice and a brief meeting.
Networking at Bar Association Events: This is an often overlooked source of potential jobs. As a student or recent graduate you can join committees in different practice areas, and attend networking events. The committees meet once a month, and afford easy opportunities for the shy networkers to gradually get to know other committee members. Larger networking events can also be valuable, but tougher to handle. My advice is to always go with a friend, and to go early, before the room fills up and it becomes harder to break into conversations. Again, feel no pressure to ask for a job. Just exchange cards, or get their contact information, and follow up later.
Can this really work? In a word, yes. Here are a few success stories: A recent graduate I know networked by selectively emailing graduates of his law school who worked in small corporate boutique firms. One of them got back to him. Turns out the firm was looking to hire someone more senior, but once the alum forwarded his email to the hiring partner they interviewed him, and brought him onboard. Another grad I know attended a big party for the Young Lawyer’s Section of his local bar association. While all the other grads were partying, he introduced himself to the law firm partners who headed up the committees and were hosting the event. No one else was talking to them, because they were afraid to approach them. Long story short—within two weeks, he had a job offer.
Hopefully these stories have inspired you—go with the networking method that best fits your own comfort level, and let me know if it works.
Hillary Mantis consults nationwide with law students, pre-law students and lawyers. She is the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers, and Jobs for Lawyers: Effective techniques for getting hired in today’s economy. You can write to Hillary at firstname.lastname@example.org