Networking Strategically


Networking is the most important part of a job search especially for mid- to senior-level legal roles. Statistically, it is the most likely way you will find your next position. As I like to say, the three most important actions for a successful job search are networking, networking and networking.

What is networking?

Simply put, networking is reaching out to people to make a connection.

Prior to networking, I advise stepping back to determine what your goal is and then strategizing on how best to achieve your goal. What is the logical next step in your career progression? What is your ultimate career goal and what next step do you need to take to achieve it? What industry sectors would be most interested in your experience? What is the geographic scope of your search? What sectors are most prevalent in that geographic area and how does your experience align with the legal needs of companies in that sector?

The logical first step in networking is to reach out to people you know. Lawyers that you know and/or have worked with in the past. Do not forget your old law firm. Often law firms are the first to be asked by their clients if they can recommend anyone to fill a position. In addition to lawyers, it is very important to reach out to businesspeople with whom you have worked. For example, a vice president you worked with and had a good relationship with who moved to another company. You never know when they will have a need for their legal team.

You should not be asking if they have an opportunity, but rather you should just send an email—or LinkedIn message—and ask if the person has time for a short call or video chat. In the conversation, let them know that you would be open to certain opportunities if they hear of any. Also ask if there is anyone who they recommend for you to connect with—ideally you will get their permission to say they recommended that you reach out.

You then need to build out your network. First, contact the people who your contacts recommended that you reach out to during your call. Do not be afraid to reach out to people you do not know. For example, make a list of companies that are in an acceptable location and in the sector that you are most interested in and have the most relevant experience. LinkedIn is a great tool to easily identify these potential contacts. Look at their bios. Do you have anything in common with them such as school, law firm, personal interests, etc.? If so, leverage this to make a connection. You might simply note that the potential contact has successfully made a career move that is relevant to your search. Ask them if they have a few minutes to discuss what steps they took to find their position.

Two major pitfalls to a successful networking strategy

You might not feel comfortable reaching out and letting your contacts know you are open to new opportunities. This could especially be an issue if you are in transition; you might start going down the deep hole of losing your mojo and feeling that you do not want to bother anyone. While it is not unusual to think this way, you must realize that it is not reality. Talk with a colleague who can help you realize all that you bring to the table. And remember, you are not asking anyone for a job, just making a connection and letting them know you are open to opportunities if they come across one. You are not a burden but rather would be a welcomed asset to any company. Most people want to help; most have been in a similar position at some point in their career. I find that the higher the title/level of the person you are reaching out to, the more likely you will get a response.

The other major pitfall is time. If you are working, you are very busy. You are going to triage every day and handle what has to get done. As a result, networking will not be on the top of your list, and therefore, there is a low probability it will get done. Accordingly, you must set a weekly goal that is on the top of your to do list. Something that you can achieve. Perhaps set a weekly goal of five attempts to make a new contact or respond to someone who responded to you. Make it a reasonable priority that you can achieve every week and will check off your to do list.

Networking is so important that you should be doing it even when you are not actively in the market. This is the best time to find an opportunity. You have no pressure to accept the position so you can evaluate the opportunity clearly. Also, you will likely be viewed positively by the company with the opening because you are not actively looking but rather are interested in their company. Again, set a modest goal each week to avoid having networking fall to the bottom of your list.


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