How to Get Hired Despite Not Networking for a Job
For an introvert, the prospect of networking gives me the cold sweats. I have literally had nightmares about it. And the only thing worse is when your livelihood hangs in the balance on your ability to network. Small talk and innocuous chatter – I shutter at the thought. There has been many a day I have contemplated whether I would have been better suited to continuing my pursuit of being a historian, since my version of heaven is filled with libraries and the smell of antiquated books.
Nevertheless, I’m a lawyer. And if you’re reading this, you’re likely a lawyer or aspire to be one. If you are a law student, networking for a job with the right people hoping that one of them might one day offer you a job or recommend you to someone who will can seem like a Herculean effort. There are a few good ways to do it and a lot more really bad ways to do it.
When I was in law school, I was not good at networking for a job. So I didn’t really make an effort to go out of my way and meet people. This is not a good approach. The fact that I landed a good job (and can proudly say I seem to be one of the few in my class still working at the firm that hired me out of law school) after passing the bar is a testament to my doing one of those things well that causes people to recommend you for a job. I worked hard at a clerkship.
My third year, I worked for a couple of solo practitioners who shared an office space. They didn’t have the workload to take me on after law school. So I graduated without a job and with a mediocre resume and GPA. I studied for and took the bar without a job. And during all that time, I sent out dozens of resumes and cover letters. Most of which drew no response. After taking the bar, I sat at home every day while my wife went to work, and sent out dozens more resumes. Nothing.
Then I got a call. One of the folks I clerked for was on the line: “I know of a firm that’s looking to hire an associate in Birmingham. What do you know about insurance defense?”
My response, “Ummm, not much.”
“Fine. What do you know about trucking.”
“Alright. Are you interested in the job?”
[Frantically trying to let him finish his question so I don’t cut him off mid-sentence in zealous anticipation] “Yes!” A few weeks later there was an impromptu phone interview, which actually came through while I was driving through a tropical storm on my way to Texas. Three interviews later, I was offered the job. But this all happened despite my not doing any of the things I should have done to network and meet people, except for one vitally important thing – I worked hard at my clerkship.
Networking for a Job the Right Way During Law School
A few months ago, I spoke to a group of students at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law, along with a friend of mine, David Graves (who I’ve since interviewed on this blog about “Managing Clients and Evaluating Cases.”). After we spoke, several of the students approached, and we talked for a bit. A 3L told me about some of her clerking experience, which was similar to the work I do, and asked if I knew of anyone who was hiring. I didn’t. She later connected with me on LinkedIn. And that was it. We talked. She acted like a normal human being and left a favorable impression.
Some time passes and my firm starts getting ready to hire an associate. I remember the girl I met at Cumberland and get in touch with her. She’s still looking for work and sends me a resume, which I forward along to the decision-makers. A few days after that, she sent me a handwritten note thanking me for remembering her. Since then she’s interviewed for the job. Now I don’t have any idea whether she’ll get the job or not, but I know this – she went about networking for a job the right way. She was assertive in an appropriate situation and made a memorable impression on someone who might be in a hiring position down the road.
How About Networking for Clients?
I’m several years into my legal career. And I don’t enjoy networking now any more than when I started law school. But it’s necessary. And it’s a skill. And networking for clients now is every bit as important as networking for a job was previously. So I put in the time and effort to improve, and it’s begun to pay dividends.
Here’s a resource to help: I recently read and reviewed Merrylin Tartlton’s Getting Clients, which she markets as a primer for those getting into (or back into) the game of marketing and networking for clients.
Artwork by Sean MacEntee.