Networking - Capital University Law School

Networking

  • Networking is the art of building relationships. It is a skill that will benefit you throughout your career.

    Why Networking is Important
    Throughout the entire career process, it is necessary to focus your efforts on networking. The single best source for new positions is “word-of-mouth.” A startling number of legal positions are never posted, because a qualified candidate learned of the position by talking to the right people at the right time, and the position was filled without any formal advertisement. Employers frequently hire through contacts because they prefer to hire someone they know. If they receive a recommendation of a good candidate, they can feel confident in their new employee while saving time and money as compared to the traditional job posting methods. Hiring through contacts bypasses the need to advertise a position, read countless resumes, and interview many candidates. With this in mind, you can see how it is beneficial for employers and job candidates alike to be networking!

    The Art of Networking
    When you attend an event or meeting, you are given an opportunity to meet individuals. These individuals in turn assist you in obtaining a job or making a connection with someone else that is to your benefit. That being said, many people are afraid of using this to their advantage. How do you “work” a room? How do you make small talk with someone you have just met? How do you follow-up on the meeting without seeming like you are asking for something? The answers to these questions make up the art of networking.

    How to Build Your Network
    Since you understand how crucial networking is for the potential legal professional, take the time to review the steps outlined below. If you have any additional questions, please seek the advice of the staff of the Office of Professional Development, who are more than happy to assist you.

    Identify Contacts
    The term “Networking” may bring to mind visions of cold calling, listlessly passing out your business card, and talking with strangers about uninteresting subjects. Fortunately, networking can be as easy as talking to your friends and neighbors. It is as simple as making connections and building associations. Everyone that you meet in life should be considered a future resource. Take a minute to consider the people in your informal contact list:
    • Undergraduate and Law School Professors
    • Office of Professional Development Staff 
    • Family members
    • Friends 
    • Friends of the family 
    • Co-workers 
    • CapLaw Alumni 
    • Neighbors 
    • Members of your church, synagogue, or mosque
    • Members of your softball team 
    • The person sitting next to you at an event 

    The idea is that everyone you meet is a potential lead. If you continually tell these people what field you hope to enter, or what type of job you are seeking, any one of these people may have an acquaintance who offers exactly what you seek.

    Once you have determined a field of interest, be sure to talk with professors in that field. Faculty members are a good source of advice and information and frequently maintain contacts in the legal community. Be sure to use their expertise.

    Connect
    Now that you have identified people with whom you should contact, it is time that you follow up with them and set up a time to connect, either by phone or an in-person meeting. The goals of the connection, often referred to as the informational interview, is to network on a one-on-one basis, ask the person questions about his or her particular career, current developments in the industry and seek any advice he or she may have for you. The purpose is not to ask for a job, but to make a sincere connection with someone with the professional community.

    Informational interviewing is a way to get your foot in the door to talk with people you may not already know. If you are intimidated by the thought of asking a stranger to talk to you or if you are wondering why a busy professional would want to take the time to meet you, remember that most people enjoy helping others and feel good when they are able to do so. Information and advice are free to give when jobs are not and people enjoy talking about themselves and bestowing their wisdom upon others.

    To prepare for the interview, make sure you have read the biography of the person you intend to meet. Prepare a list of questions that you would like to ask and be sure to tailor the questions toward that individual and his or her experience. The most important question to ask is if they have suggestions of other people with whom you should contact. This is how you keep your network growing!

    Be prepared to answer questions as well. The professional may ask you why you have chosen to become a lawyer and what you intend to do after graduation, but remember that you are interviewing them, so you should be listening and asking questions more than you are talking.

    For more information on informational interviewing, please consult the Office of Professional Development or locate the pamphlet, The How-Tos of Informational Interviewing, outside the office.

    Follow Up
    After making a connection with someone, an imperative next step is to follow up with them. You can either do this through email or by a hand-written letter, thanking them again for taking the time to meet with you. The more tailored you can be in your follow up communication, the better.

    Maintain, Record, Track
    It is important to keep track of your networking efforts in order to maximize its potential. It is simple to create a database that contains your connections, their contact information, how you met them, what you have done together (i.e. phone call, lunch meeting, etc.), when you have connected, and when you plan to connect again. It is also important to note little details from previous conversations that will help you be more tailored and specific in future conversations.

    Networking Scenarios
    Now that you are aware of the basic steps of how to build a professional network through informational interviewing, you should also consider different ways in which you can expand your network. Joining diverse organizations and attending various events, meetings, receptions, etc., both within the legal community and outside of it, offers opportunities to make new connections. Different scenarios that you will encounter are discussed below:

    Cocktail Party
    A cocktail party or reception is an event that is designed for socialization. The ambience is inviting for people to mill about as they please, with few, if any, places for seating. Such events are usually held in the evening in conjunction with another event, such as an award presentation or a formal dinner. Whatever the purpose of the event, the intent of the cocktail party is for people to mix and mingle and there are a few guidelines you should follow when attending a cocktail party or reception:
    • Alcoholic drinks will most likely be served and guests are usually encouraged to partake at their will; however, you should limit yourself to no more than two drinks in order to maintain your professionalism. 
    • Hors d’oeuvres will most likely be served as well, but they are not intended as a meal replacement. Your focus should be on meeting and connecting with people. How engaging can you be if your mouth is filled with food the entire time? If you know you will be hungry during an event, it is helpful to have a snack or small meal beforehand so that you are free to focus on networking. 

    Committee Meeting
    An advantageous way in which to get to know attorneys is through joining various organizations or associations and attending their committee meetings. For instance, it is suggested that students join the Columbus Bar Association and attend the committee meeting that addresses the substantive area that is of particular interest to them. While attending meetings, it should be your goal to talk to the other professionals in attendance. It is suggested you show up early to provide time for this opportunity, or allow yourself to stay afterwards and introduce yourself to those who may be milling around.

    Besides attending committee meetings, you can also become more integrated into the committee by volunteering to help out with an event or special project. Volunteering will allow you to work with professionals on a more personal basis and create a natural opportunity for them to get to know you, your work ethic, and your work product.

    Brief Encounters
    Brief encounters are times in which you have just met someone and have 30 seconds or less in which to explain yourself, your experiences, and your passions. You want the person to know who you are and what your goals are as efficiently and effectively as you are able, while also enticing him or her to know more. This type of communication is often referred to as your elevator pitch.

    Below are some suggestions on how to develop your elevator pitch and promote the best “you”:
    • Describe who you are, but keep it short. What is the most important thing you want the person to know about you? It is hard to be concise; but similar to your cover letter, the less you say, the better you are understood.
    • Describe what you do, state your value phrased as key results or impact. 
    • Describe why you are unique, what makes you different or better than others?
    • Describe your immediate goals which should be concrete, defined, and realistic. 
    • Tailor it to your audience. You may have to alter it slightly depending on to whom you are speaking, but the more simple the message, the more consistent (and easier to remember) it will be. 
    • Analyze your pitch. Keep it short and avoid clichés. You want to be memorable and unique, which means speaking in your own voice.

    As stated previously, you never know who you will meet that may be able to serve as a potential resource. Therefore, it is important to always be prepared to talk about yourself effectively, employing the aforementioned suggestions.

    Additional Networking Tips
    Get Over Your Fear of Rejection
    While building your network, you may encounter people who do not want to help you or simply cannot help you for one reason or another. Do not take it personally; it is all part of the process.

    Make it Easy
    The professional with whom you are trying to connect and establish a relationship, is most likely a very busy person with a very demanding schedule. When you reach out to them, make sure to emphasize that you would like to connect at their convenience. This could mean that you visit them in their office, meet them during their lunch break, or during the weekend if that is their preference. Also, in order to make it as easy as possible for them to help you, be sure to explain specifically what you want and ask detail-oriented questions.

    Give Back
    Lastly, after you have landed the job, and have climbed the career ladder, it is important to remember to give back. Who lent you a helping hand on your way of becoming a professional? Somebody took the time to help you out on along your career path; you should return the same favor to young students looking to enter the field as well. Connecting and mentoring with young professionals is a way for you to recruit talent for your firm, learn new trends and ideas, and help to shape the leaders of tomorrow.