Networking Advice for Law Students Part I: Don’t Waste Your Time Being Miserable - Network Through Something “Interesting”

I've already mentioned how important effective networking has been in my own career path. Now I'd like to share some of the tricks I've picked up along the way. First up: putting networking in a compelling context, or what I'm calling "Don't Waste Your Time Being Miserable - Network Through Something Interesting."

By this I mean networking in situations and with people you find interesting, entertaining, or otherwise worthwhile. I don't know about you, but I have to really bring my A game to make much of your basic wine and cheese event. I'm at my best when I have a built in topic of conversation in common with whomever it is I'm trying to shmooz. 

So I tend to avoid the straight mixer-style events. Instead I aim to attend the program-followed-by-reception model of networking opportunity. That way I and my conversation partner have just sat through the same lecture/panel/demonstration/video when we're swaying by the makeshift bar balancing cocktail napkin, cheese plate, and wine glass.

The point is: set yourself up for success. Go somewhere with something to talk about besides yourself. Give yourself an opportunity to connect with someone on a substantive level. 

After the jump: other ideas for ways to make meaningful connections and a preview of the rest of this series. 

Once you've made contact at said cocktail and followed-up don't leave it at that. Figure out what you and your connection could do besides sit across a patio table and try not to get food on your business casual. Last week I organized a hike in the city park near me for my high school's local reunion. In a couple months I'm helping organize a river clean up day with my local women's bar association. Next time I organize a reception for attorneys I'm going to hire a sommelier who will kick off the night with a wine tasting tutorial. 

I'm particularly partial to networking through service. NAWL's Night's of Giving is a fantastic example. But it doesn't have to be so goody-two-shoes. Whenever I see an article about the Alien Tort Claims Act I take advantage of the opportunity to strike up conversation with my old supervisor who worked on one of the early cases to revive the statute. Whenever I'm in New York I always find a new lunch spot to try with my old boss there who's a real foodie. When I see new studies on breast cancer I always use it as an excuse to get back in touch with a co-worker who was engaged in advocacy on the issue. 

Now in all fairness, the wine and cheese reception might really be your moment to shine. Boyfriend, for example is a huge fan. He's so excited about the free food and drinks that he's in a great mood, generally relaxed, and an easy conversationalist. So he doesn't have to be so creative. He tends to make good connections at these events - so much so that people follow-up with him! For me - not so much. The cocktail reception represents a fairly stressful situation for me and at most an opportunity for introductions to be exploited later on. So I get creative and focus on situations and relationships that are grounded in some mutually shared experience or interest. Those are the ones that are easiest to nurture and most likely to bear fruit.   

Next up:

2. Embrace the Professional Association Member Within

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