Additional helpful tips for targeted networking

LegalJob was asked the following in Monday's Mail Bag.

I am a 3L with no job yet.  How do I network with people without sounding desperate (which I am)?

Great question and many have asked one similar. There are at least two items you can practice to improve your networking efforts:

Do not approach as if looking for a job (from the person you are meeting).  

This one seems counterintuitive.  The whole reason you are meeting with people is because you are trying to find work.  The problem is that as soon as you tell a prospective employer that you are looking for a job (from them), there is a decent chance they will be turned off and may not be interested in meeting with you.  

Consider the following two approaches that may help lower the person's guard, depending on your facts:

  • You are currently gainfully employed.  This fact pattern may be the easier case -- Your company is cutting back and letting people go; you are not getting work that interests you there; the folks that you work with are unpleasant; you want more money or some combination of these or some other reason.  Whatever the "real" reason, your story should include two components:
    • A substantive reason for wanting to leave.  For instance, you now prefer to focus on a different aspect of the area you have been working on or a different setting (i.e., small versus big firm or vice versa, private practice versus government, etc.).  Money, personality difference, budget issues/cutbacks should probably be left out of your pitch to the extent possible.
    • How specifically your current experience will be useful in your next setting. You should be able to articulate examples.
  • You are not gainfully employed.  Perhaps you have been turned down from 100 places; you have not looked hard enough; you have terrible grades; you do not know what you want to do; you are scared.  Again, whatever the "real" reason, your story should include two components:
    • A substantive reason for not having a job yet.  For example, you are looking to practice IP law for the fashion industry and you have not found a firm that has that specialty in the area.
    • How specifically your current experience (law school courses, moot court, previous work experience, undergraduate, talents, other) will be useful in your next setting.

Have a specific idea of how people you are meeting with can help (and you clearly communicate this idea.)  

This tip can also be thought of as beginning with the end in mind.  Thank you Stephen Covey for habit 2.  You do not want to leave the meeting where the person you met with says he or she will keep on the look out for potential openings or some other throw away line.  You need tangible tasks.  

The person(s) you meet with can:

  • Provide you a recommendation letter vouching for your good work;
  • Provide you two or more names of people you can contact that may be helpful (from that point, so and so suggested I contact you given my experience and job interests);
  • Help you clean up your paperwork (resume, cover letter, writing sample);
  • Help you further focus your search (after you provide specifics and your thoughts about preferred specialty areas); and
  • Provide specific career advice to help you land the desired opportunity (additional coursework, work experience, activities, etc.).

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