Not Just a Job Search: Developing Your Future Network

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Any job search process can be stressful and tiring, and the fall recruiting season for 2Ls is particularly intense. As a 2L, you will be busy researching employers, preparing for interviews, possibly traveling for callback interviews, and ultimately meeting and talking with a lot of different people through the process, including many attorneys and recruiting professionals at multiple employers. 

It’s important to keep in mind that in addition to the brass ring at the end of the job search process—a job—there is another very valuable outcome from your search: the beginning of your long-term, professional network. Even if you don’t end up working for their firm, agency, or organization, you will likely cross paths again in the future with a good number of the people you meet through your job search. You might encounter them working on a case or a deal in the future. You might encounter them on a bar committee or through another professional organization. Or you might meet them again through a future job search.  

To ensure you maximize the opportunity to develop your budding professional network, consider the following tips.

1. Be enthusiastic. You should impress every person you meet with your interest in and enthusiasm for the particular job opportunity you are pursuing as well as their organization and their practice. While candidates never intend to create an impression of disinterest, they can inadvertently do so by being unprepared for an interview, being unprepared to ask important questions, or simply being tired. Unfortunately, a candidate who seems to be disinterested or not engaged in an interview can leave a lasting impression—and not a good one.

2. Be professional and gracious. Always respond to emails and phone calls promptly—a delay in responding can signal you are not interested in the employer. And remember that ghosting is never acceptable in a professional context. Thank you notes may seem unnecessary, particularly given the speed at which the 2L recruitment process can move. That said, a thank you note (or email) can create an opportunity to maintain a professional connection at an appropriate time with someone you found particularly interesting or helpful during the interview process. 

3. Be mindful of future opportunities. While an employer might not extend you an offer now, the employer might consider you again in the future. I recently received an application from a lateral candidate who I suspected had applied as a 2L. I checked our applicant database and found comments from her interviews as a 2L. Although she did not receive an offer at that time, the comments were very positive and were a benefit to her when she applied as a lateral candidate.

4. Do the right thing. By not conducting themselves in a professional manner in all aspects of the job search process, candidates can leave an employer with a bad impression that may have lasting negative consequences. For example, candidates sometimes submit expenses related to their interviews with one employer that are not appropriate, presumably because they have decided they are more interested in a different employer. Any recruiting professional can tell tales of egregious and therefore memorable reimbursement requests. If at some point in the future the candidate becomes interested in the first employer again, it is quite possible that the recruiting professional will remember the reimbursement request, or there will be a note about it in the candidate’s file. It could eliminate the candidate from consideration.

5. Stay connected. Keep in touch with people you meet through your job search process. Your contacts don’t have to be frequent and or substantial; they can and should vary by the nature of the professional relationship. I once met a candidate as a 3L who was interested in a niche practice area where we did not have a need at the time. The candidate went on to find a job with another firm but kept me on his holiday mailing list. Each year I received a holiday card from him, so I knew where he was working. Years later, we had a need for someone at his level, and because I had received his holiday card I knew where to find him. I contacted him, he interviewed, and he filled our lateral need.

The legal community in many cities can be small. There is a good chance you will cross paths with the same people again and again whether in court, across the table on a deal, or at a bar association event. They might also be the key to a future job opportunity. Building a broad and effective network during your search for your first legal job can pay big dividends in the future.

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