Networking and Making Connections

Networking is the process of locating and contacting individuals who might have information relevant to your career planning and job search. For many people the very concept of networking conjures up images of pushy, aggressive tactics that are likely to be quite alien. Even when networking is properly viewed as a means of information gathering, the process may still induce a great deal of anxiety.

Networking is a crucial career planning skill for several reasons. First, it is one of the best ways to find out what lawyers actually do in different types of employment and, should you wish, what is necessary to enable you to do it. Second, a strong network is a resource that you can depend on for professional support, information, and guidance throughout your career, including the majority of time when you are not job hunting. Finally, it is very often true that the best career opportunities are not advertised or listed, and will only be discovered through networking.

You can network through a process called informational interviewing. Informational interviewing is meeting with people to learn more about practice settings and areas with the objective of learning more and further developing your career path. It is NOT done for the purpose of getting a job with the contact or his or her organization, indeed, that is to be avoided during informational interviewing.

You can also network for the purpose of developing a job lead. Networking for job leads involves meeting an expanding number of people who may have knowledge about leads or who are or may know effective contacts at organizations in which you are interested.

These two purposes call for different approaches during the networking process with respect to the people you select as contacts and the things you discuss with them.

Networking is not nearly as difficult as many people imagine. It involves seeking out people who may be willing to help you and asking them for that help. The Career Planning staff will be happy to help you generate a networking plan.

Networking Steps:

  1. You start networking by contacting lawyers and perhaps other people you already know who you believe can provide useful information and who are willing to help you. You can also draw on the resources of graduates around the country. Each contact will lead to others. Initially, it is helpful to keep an organized list of your contacts and some notes about your discussions.
  2. Except where geography makes it impractical, you should conduct networking interviews in person rather than by telephone. Here is a suggested approach – email your contact and state that you are interested in finding out more about their practice area, that particular legal market, that kind of firm, etc. State that you are looking for any advice they can provide, and conclude by saying you will follow up with them by phone in a few days. That way they are not caught off guard by your phone call. Call your contact and promise that you will only take 10 or 15 minutes of his/her time, and keep your promise. Although you may occasionally come across a person who is unwilling to meet with you, most people are flattered and pleased to have their opinions and insights solicited. If the contact cannot or will not meet with you, there is no reason to take it personally or to believe that no one will ever meet with you, you simply move on to the next contact on your list.
  3. Prepare for your meetings with your initial contacts, be considerate of their time so that they will be favorably impressed with you and will want to continue to help you and stay in contact with you. Since you want to expand your network, at an appropriate point in your meeting, ask each contact if there is anyone else he or she recommends that you meet, and if you can use the contact's name by way of introduction to such further contacts.
  4. Always send each contact a thank you note referring to some aspect of the conversation and indicate how you will be following up. This will keep the door open for future contact with the person. At appropriate intervals, periodically email contacts you have made in the past to keep in touch, share regards of contacts to whom they referred you, and generally keep your name and status up to date with them.