Networking is a vital part of being a successful practicing lawyer and, in turn, a successful law student. With the world as we knew it shut down until further notice, it does not mean that we have to stop our networking. Here are some practical things that attorneys and law students can do now, in this time of social distancing, that can be or lead to effective networking activities.
Your Online Profile.
Google yourself and review the results with a fine-tooth comb. It has been stated that 70% of employers Google candidates before hire and review their social media (I believe that this number is even higher than 70%). Make sure you are depicted online as you wish to be depicted. If you find some things that are less than desirable about yourself, certain companies can have these results “pushed down” on the search list. You might consider paying a company to fine tune your online presence because employers and others are definitely googling you.
Having no digital footprint is a mistake. Reaching your mid-twenties and beyond without any information about you online will be viewed as a red flag to any potential employer or networking contact.
Obviously, social media is going to be a major part of your networking in the time of social distancing so your first step is to update and make your social media profiles robust. Professional integrity is your calling card in any setting and no less on social media. Scrub any of your online presence that contains unsavory statements and unprofessional pictures. Make Facebook and Instagram private for your friends only and review your statements on Twitter.
The vast majority of lawyers (some say as high as 89%) have a presence on LinkedIn which is considered the professional social networking site. Make sure you amp up your profile and have “superstar” status which is achieved by having a complete profile, as well as maintaining activity on the site. After you perfect your online profile on LinkedIn—use it. LinkedIn’s over-arching purpose is to network. Research people whose career you would like to emulate, who have the job you want, and familiarize yourself with the firms/companies practicing the areas of law in which you are interested? Read articles from sources of interest, share articles of interest, and “like” and comment on LinkedIn posts. Overall, being active on LinkedIn will get you noticed which is a good lead into solid networking.
Reach Out to Colleagues.
Spend this time reaching out to old supervisors and colleagues that you may not have been in touch with recently. Update them on your career and say hello. If you need a way to start the conversation, send along an article of mutual interest, whether it is work related or social. You can also send them invitations to online events whether it is an online CLE or a concert in which you both have a mutual interest. People are busy even in this time of social distancing, but they will be more apt to say hello now than if they were spending their time commuting. This is also an unprecedented boon for introverts who find in person networking even more difficult than others. Reach out!
Reaching out to old acquaintances and trying to create new ones is the perfect time to perfect your “elevator pitch.” An elevator pitch is nothing more than a brief synopsis of who you are and what you want. “Hi, I am Jill Backer and I am a first-year associate at X firm. I would like to eventually build upon this experience and be in X area of law.” Use this elevator pitch in person and in e-introductions.
Participate in online CLE seminars in practice areas in which you are interested and put those on your resume. This shows your interest in the subject-matter, has you participating in career building activities, and puts you in the room where it happens.
Bar Associations and Committees.
Spend some time online joining bar associations and perhaps more importantly, the committees of the practices to which you aspire. This will get you networking with a whole group of “targets” for your networking pool.
Your Networking Approach.
Any networking, whether in person or online, should be approached with a well thought-out strategy. Review people’s LinkedIn pages and firm bios, and reach out to those individuals whose career path is one you wish to follow. Either try LinkedIn yourself or get an e-intro from someone you know. While it is never easy to speak to a stranger, it will be extremely beneficial to ask for a phone or zoom meeting. Tell the target you are interested in X area of law and would love to get their advice on how a young lawyer could start.
Perfect Your Documents.
This is a great time to work on your resume, writing samples, and even your cover letters (if you are seeking work). Some small things to watch out for: (i) you have or are working on a juris doctor degree—there is no such thing as a juris doctorate. Many lawyers get this wrong; (ii) Narrative resumes are still the go-to for the legal market. Only use bullet point if you are in the financial practices/market where bullets are more the norm; and (iii) Use some version of your name in the title of your resume document. Do not use only the word, “resume” – Recruiters hate that. Your resume needs to be grammatically perfect with no spelling errors, no typos, and overall, easy on the eyes as a base line. Spend time updating and perfecting it!
There are countless ways to increase your networking during this unprecedented time of social distancing. Doing so will pay dividends now and when we are all back together again. Happy Networking!