This is a guest blog post by Christine Holst.
Believe it or not, spring break is less than three weeks away! While the week off can be a great time to take a break from the grind of law school, it is also an excellent time to get a jump start on your job search through networking. Here are some tips for making the most of your break:
- Get to your market
Unless you plan to start your career in South Bend, spring break is one of the few times during the year that you can visit the city you plan to practice in. Physically being in your target city accomplishes a lot – by simply walking around, using public transit, and going to restaurants and public spaces, you can get a better sense of what working in the city after graduation would be like, especially if you have not lived there previously. This also will give you something to talk about if asked in an interview why you want to work in that city. Showing that you have taken advantage of opportunities to visit and familiarize yourself with the market can go a long way toward convincing an employer you want to work there. Most importantly, being physically in a city allows you to meet with networking contacts in person.
Networking is much more effective when done in person; you will be more memorable and more likely to establish a connection that will last. You also position yourself for unexpected invitations or introductions. For example, let’s say you have a great coffee meeting with a partner at a local firm, he or she may invite you back to the office to see the work space or introduce you to other attorneys at the firm. These types of serendipitous encounters simply can’t happen over the phone.
- Plan ahead
The time to start planning for your spring break meetings is now. Do your research. Use LinkedIn or other resources to identify alumni in your target market. Email your alumni mentor. Review your list of contacts you have met with previously or spoken to over the phone and determine who would be helpful to speak to again. Send out emails 1-2 weeks before you plan to be in town to see if you can set up in-person meetings. You should give your networking contacts enough notice that they can plan time to meet with you but not so far in advance that they don’t know what their schedule will be like that week. Not everyone will be responsive or will be available to meet, so be broad with your outreach to give yourself the best chance of making your break productive. If you didn’t hear back from a contact you emailed previously, email them again; they may be more likely to respond to a request to meet in person.
Aim for at least two in-person meetings with networking contacts over spring break. And if you can meet with more people, all the better! These do not have to be long meetings. A 15-20 minute meeting over coffee is all it takes to establish a connection that you can build upon later.
- Attend events
Another great way to meet attorneys who do what you want to do is to attend group events or CLE presentations in your market. Look up the local bar association in your target city and see if there are any scheduled events or CLE presentations for the week of March 12. Then sign up and plan to attend!
Don’t forget other legal-related groups like specialized bar associations (i.e. the Federal Bar Association, women’s legal groups, affinity groups, and groups focusing on a particular area of law), alumni groups like the Notre Dame clubs or lawyers committees, and public interest organizations that may have fundraisers, informal happy hours, service projects, pro bono opportunities or CLE events that you could attend as well. Research events now and sign up or plan to attend any that occur when you’re going to be in town.
Remember to check Symplicity too! We already have one firm, Varnum from Grand Rapids, Michigan, that has posted a 1L reception during spring break. We will continue to add any additional events that the CDO learns about in the Events section of Symplicity.
- Follow up upon your return to NDLS
Your spring break networking is not done at the end of the week! Send thank you emails to any contacts you meet with and make sure you have a system for keeping track of your networking contacts for easy follow-up later. Use what you have learned from your networking meetings to tailor your summer job search and to reach out to additional networking contacts. Your conversations may also help direct which firms you apply to for OCI, which law school activities or groups you are interested in, and which classes you might take in the fall.
And don’t forget to stop by the CDO after spring break and let us know how your networking efforts went! We are happy to talk through strategy for follow up and how to use what you learned to move yourself forward in your job search.