Networking: Making Contact
Winter break is a great time to begin, or ramp up, your networking activities. In addition to the multiple opportunities you will have over the holidays to catch up with friends, parents of friends, friends of your parents, former colleagues, etc., you will also have time to research organizations you are interested in working for and identify potential networking contacts currently working there. However, we know from meeting with many of you that these types of networking contacts - people beyond your personal network that you must introduce yourself to - are often the hardest for students to approach. Here is our best advice for making these contacts:
FIND COMMON GROUND: Scout the organizations website for bios on the attorneys working there. Find a Loyola grad or a graduate of your undergraduate institution. Just that much shared background gives you an opening to make contact.
SEND AN EMAIL BEFORE FOLLOWING UP WITH A PHONE CALL: Send the contact a quick email explaining:
- Your connection - that you are a Loyola student or a graduate of your common undergraduate institution.
- Why you are contacting them - because they have a tax practice and you are interested in learning more about it or because they practice in a four attorney firm and you are interested in learning more about small firm practice. The more specific the interest, the better.
- What you are seeking - "I'd really love to learn more about your area of practice and the career path that you took," or "I'd really appreciate any advice you have for a student in my position on how to best market myself in this down economy," or "I'd really love to get your thoughts on the firms in Chicago that are doing the best work in your area of law."
- How you will proceed - ask if the contact could spare 15 minutes for a phone call or a meeting at their convenience. Ask for a convenient time to call them and let them know that you will follow up next week by phone.
FOLLOW THROUGH: If the contact doesn't respond to your email, don't assume that they won't talk to you. Lawyers are famously busy and often mean to respond to things that they don't get around to. Follow up on your email by calling the next week.
BE PREPARED: If you catch the contact on the phone, they may say, "I have 10 minutes right now, let's talk." Be prepared to have the conversation right then and there. Prepare a number of questions to ask - about their practice, their firm, their career path, how they see their practice changing and developing in the future, what types of classes and internships they would recommend a law student pursue to be competitive, what are good firms practicing in their area of law, etc. Also make sure that your resume is fully updated and proofread so that you can provide it immediately if they request it.
SAY THANK YOU: After the call or meeting, send a thank you note or a thank you email. It doesn't have to be long or elaborate; it just has to thank them for their time.
NOTE THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER ASK FOR A JOB DURING ANY OF THIS CONTACT: If they are impressed with you and are hiring, or know of someone who is hiring, it will logically come up during the conversation. If it comes up, do take the contact up on any offer to pass your resume along within their organization or to others they know. And if they recommend others that you should contact, ask if it would be okay for you to use their name by way of introduction. Being able to include in a cover letter the line, "So and so suggested that I contact you when he learned of my interest in tax law," can get your resume some attention.
Mary Beth Wynn, Associate Director of Career Services
Originally printed in the December 2008 edition of the Career Services Newsletter.