By Ms. JD Editor • August 25, 2021•Ms. JD, Writers in Residence, Law School, Pre-Law, Issues, Mentoring and Networking
During my prelaw journey, I used LinkedIn daily. As a first-generation law student, there are so many nuances I do not know and connections I do not have, which is why networking is so important. LinkedIn provides quick access to members of the legal community that can help you foster connections throughout your legal career.
Update your LinkedIn.
Make sure your LinkedIn is up to date and reflects who you are and the work you have done. Before adding written content to your profile it is important to pick a good professional headshot as your profile picture. Profiles with good headshots get more views on LinkedIn. Come up with a strong objective for the About section that details a bit about who you are and what you care about. To avoid the stress of trying to fit all of the information about each job I have had, under my Experience, I listed my prior work experience without adding a description. Once you have all of that done, feel free to add any activities, awards, languages that you might have.
I find mentors on LinkedIn by thinking about what profession or dream job I would like to have in the next 5-10 years. Once I have a vision, I search for people in that role and see what prior experience and education they possess. I use this information to reflect on my own work experience and education. I also make a note of their experience to use when I reach out to them.
Once you find people where you want to be professional, it is important to ask them if they would like to connect with you. Make sure to add a note in the invitation as to why you would like to join. Typically say:
“Hello, my name is Jasmine. I am interested in (profession, job, school). I was wondering if you would be willing to schedule a 20-minute phone call with me to talk about your experience at/with/as a (profession/ job/ school). Thank you so much for your time.”
I used to talk to current and previous law students at schools I was interested in attending. Reaching out to them this way helped me figure out what school was the right fit for me. I paid attention to the way people spoke about their school and how welcoming or unwelcoming they seemed to be. This was especially important for me when thinking about how strong the alumni network was and if current students felt that the school was supportive and nurturing. (Howard alum and current students were by far the kindest and most welcoming).
After you connect with your potential mentor/connection, make sure you review their profile before speaking with them. I personally like to have their profile up while I meet with them to refer them back. The top 4 questions I want to ask are:
- How do you feel this (school, job) has helped you in your development?
- How did you get connected to (this school/ profession/ job)?
- Would you recommend this school/job?
- Do you know anyone else who would be open to having you connect me with them?
After each call, I send an email or text thanking the person for their time, especially lawyers. Lawyers specifically are paid for their time, so it always means a lot to me when they are willing to answer my questions and offer advice.
To keep track of everyone I have spoken with, I use a google excel sheet. On the sheet, I note the person’s name I spoke with, my connection to them, their contact, what state or city they live in, a brief overview of what we talked about, what I can use to follow up with them, and when I last spoke with them. I try to reach out to my network at least 3-4 times a year to update them on how I am doing and ask how they are doing.
This excel sheet has helped me immensely in job opportunities, scholarships, fellowships, mentoring, and general networking. It has helped me grow my network and share it with my peers looking for guidance on a particular program or job.
Networking is very important, and it takes work to grow and sustain your network. I have found using LinkedIn and excel as a tool helps in preserving and connecting with people.