‘Scorched Earth’ Networking

Building a professional network is roughly equal parts organization, creativity, and perseverance. Building one in a city hundreds of miles from where you currently reside is all of those things… arguably tripled.

While I’m finishing up my last semester in Boston, much of my career preparations are centered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Email and phone are terrific tools at your disposal but no substitute for face time. I wanted to take advantage of winter break to make and maintain as many connections as possible. The catch? I ended up plotting much of what would be a five day networking extravaganza not merely from a different city but actually a different continent and time zone, since much of the final coordination was accomplished whilst I was traveling in Israel. I set up a staggering 18 coffee plans, lunches, and office meetings, with attorneys I’d known for years and some I’d never met and every shade of connection in-between. To my utter shock all but one (two hour snow delay) went off without a hitch. But what kind of alchemy would transform that smattering of individuals into a tool for integrating myself into the legal community?

Organization: An actual Excel spreadsheet. Neurotic? Maybe. Effective? Quite. I have columns for each attorney, their organization or firm, whether they were affiliated with my undergrad institution or with BUSL, and what my connection to them is/who introduced me.

Creativity: The first several rows were easy, comprised of every supervisor at each of my recent legal positions and the several mentors I’ve collected along the way. After that the branching off became more complex. A challenge for me was that the majority of my experience had been with government or in-house, so I was lacking in private sector contacts. So I got on LinkedIn and pulled up every BUSL alumni in the state. And then wrote to them. All of them. I asked each for only a few minutes of their time for an informational interview of sorts over the phone, just an opportunity to ask them a bit about their career path and practice area. A truly heartwarming percentage replied and were more than happy to speak with me.

Perseverance: Remember the spreadsheet columns? I left two out. The date of my last communication with each individual and what my next follow up step was with each of them. Set up a coffee meeting, write an email thanking them for a successful introduction, send them a link to something interesting we’d discussed that had made me think of them. For every single person.

Networking is frustrating in that there’s no progress bar tracking your success; it isn’t as if you work at it suddenly until you hit a certain point and then you’ve ‘won’. It’s a constantly ongoing endeavor. The redeeming part? Along the way you meet fascinating people, learn about areas of the law you’d never considered or maybe never heard of, and amass a tremendous quantity of advice on everything from resume formatting to life goals. And probably imbibe a heart attack-inducing quantity of coffee.

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