This is honestly one of my favorite topics. I personally think networking is important. I like networking because I love interacting with people. I blame this on my Sociology degree. This does not mean that I am not shy. I am very shy and awkward around people that I do not know well. However, I use it to my advantage and play on my strengths. There are many forms of networking. In my opinion, networking is not just talking with professionals. Networking can also be interacting with classmates and co-workers.
I googled “what does networking mean?” The dictionary from a google search read that networking is interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career. You can network anywhere. I recently created my own business cards for networking purposes. Students have asked me why I have business cards. I like to do things that help me stand out. You want people to know and remember who you are. I handed my business card out to a lawyer recently, and it immediately caught their attention. This will not guarantee you a job, but they will have more of a possibility of remembering who you are. I make sure I also grab their card so that I can email them after saying how it was pleasant to speak with them.
My Barista Story
I love telling this story because it truly shows how networking can happen anywhere. The summer before 1L, I worked as a barista for a restaurant. One day a lady came in saying how she was working on cases. I asked her what types of cases she handles. She then told me she was a lawyer. This obviously sparked my attention because I was soon to be a law student. I took down her name and number and text her when I got off work. We had a great conversation and she said we should go somewhere that has a happy hour before I leave to law school. We went to happy hour and had a great time. I am from Colorado and met her in Colorado. I am in school in South Carolina. However, whenever I go home for breaks, her and I always schedule a time to meet to enjoy lunch or dinner. I have known her for over a year now and I update her with all my achievements as I move along through law school. She and I have gotten very close. She recently told me how she will happily write me a letter of recommendation if I ever needed it. I am also returning home in December and possibly have the opportunity to sit in a trial that she is in.
Law School Networking Events
At my law school, student organizations hold networking events where you can network with local attorneys in the city. This is a great place to network with professionals. I used to be very intimidated by lawyers. However, I overcame this by noticing they were just people who happen to be lawyers. You can approach them in similar ways of people who are not lawyers. I never approach an attorney with the intention “they will give me a job.” Spark a conversation; find similarities; talk about life; get to know on a personal level. Do not stop the conversation there. Follow up with them. Ask them to go to coffee with you to get to know them more. Networking is not just about making connections. Networking is about nourishing those connections after they have been formed. Keep up with the people you connect with.
I am in a sorority. This sorority has given me a great mentor. When I was applying, I posted on a Facebook if anyone could read my personal statement for law school. My mentor responded to me saying she would read it. She asked for my number and then called me out of the blue. She said she wanted to personally get to know me so my personal statement can be PERSONAL. I was not intending on networking, but it happened. She is now one of the many reasons why I remain in law school. She has seen me and has helped me through the application process. She is still active in my life and I am thankful for her. This is also a form of networking. She knows more about me than most. I update her on all my accomplishments going through law school. I went to her about the struggles of being a law student because she knows first-hand how rough it can be most days. Point is, use your sorority and fraternity to network. You never know who you might spark a connection with.
I have recently attended two conferences within the past couple of months. One conference was a national conference for my student organization. The second conference was with the American Association for Justice (AAJ). At the first conference, I was able to meet and connect with a partner at one of the most prestigious law firms in the United States. The second conference, I was able to hear 22 speakers talking about Settlements, Negotiations, and Mediation. I was one of few law students there networking with 20-40 attorneys from Wisconsin, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, New Mexico, D.C., New York, and West Virginia. This was a great opportunity for me because I got to know lawyers and learned how to be a better law clerk through attending this conference. I encourage all to go to national conferences, become student members of organizations like the AAJ, and attend CLE’s (continuing legal education). They may have opportunities for you.
Lastly, network with your peers and the people at your job. Your peers and co-workers are your future colleagues. I have handed out my business cards to students. Some have reached out to me for outlines or needing help in a specific subject. Go for lunch and coffee with them. Get to know the people in your organization. I attempt to build my network every day. I am very shy and very awkward, but I make it work. You can network just about anywhere and build connections. Remember, do not just create connections, build on top of them.