What Not to Do: It’s the Little Things that Count

First, to the Ms. JD members, Board, and readers..... thank you for your patience! I spent this summer preparing for the infamous three-day "adventure" otherwise known as the California Bar Examination.  I am happily done with that, and back to my Writer's in Residence Blog, "'What Not to Do."

"It's the little things that count." This expression is often coined as cliche and not applied to the working world. In making friends, it’s the little things that count. In being courteous or polite, it’s the little things that count. However, in today’s economy, maybe we ought to apply this phrase to our careers. . . .

Alex, as a second-year law student, was finally learning what “networking” was all about. She had definitely learned her lesson after missing that dinner invitation to stay in and outline.  As a result, she upped it up a notch, and took on a major leadership role on-campus.  She ran for class president and won. This was perfect for Alex.  The organization was involved within the local legal community. She then proceeded to set up social events, charity events, and continued to build her reputation as an influential female leader. She attended numerous events putting her in touch with attorneys within the area.  One opportunity in particular landed in her lap to attend a national conference featuring many attorneys practicing governmental law.  

Alex wanted to be one of those attorneys.  She, along with a few of her student organization members, decided to attend.  The conference suggested students should bring the following with them: a suit, resumes, a portfolio, and business cards.  Wait!  Business cards - she had none.

During the first week of classes, the administration had sold business cards to its law students for $20.  Alex didn't buy any. Why would she get a business card if she was just a student?! Law students didn’t need business cards. Law students were the one who had to reach out to prospective employers, anyway.  She thought to herself at the time that $20 on something she wouldn’t ever use would be quite a waste of money.

So off Alex went.  She and her colleagues arrived at the conference and went to every panel they could attend.  She wanted to make a good impression. She was attentive, took notes, and asked intelligent questions. At the end of the conference she made sure to attend the reception for all conference participants.

Alex knew this was a way to meet the panelists she had intently listened to and maybe even hand one of them her resume for a summer job.  As the reception commenced, Alex put her networking skills to work.  She mixed and mingled and engaged in conversations making as many connections as possible.  She was spotted by one particular panel speaker, a current U.S. Attorney in California.  The attorney approached her and inquired, "Alex is it?  You asked a question during the Criminal Law Panel, didn't you? You're also from LA, aren't you? And you intern at the D.A.'s office?"

She was ecstatic. The attorney she paid some attention to, the attorney that had her dream job…had actually remembered her!! Alex responded and (hopefully) showed off her competence. Before they knew it the reception was coming to a close and they were saying their goodbyes.

The attorney extended her hand to Alex and said, "It was great to meet you. Can I get your card? If you're interested I'd love to keep you in mind for a couple of summer law clerk positions." Alex cringed. She didn’t know what to do. She thought about pulling out a resume from her portfolio. She gave him an awkward smile and said "I'm sorry I don't have one. If I could have your e-mail I'd love to contact you." Without hesitation the attorney gave Alex her e-mail and was on his way. 

When Alex returned from the conference she remembered to safely store the attorney’s card in her desk to follow-up with him. But as is the reality of law school, she got too busy. She was caught up in classes, student clubs, and law review. She completely forgot to e-mail him.

About two weeks later, she ran into the same attorney at a local bar association event. She was eager to inquire about the position, and he told her that unfortunately it had already been filled and that he didn’t have a way to get a hold of her.

Alex was disappointed, to say the least. This was exactly the job she had wanted…the attorney and her had so much in common! She had made an impression on him! If she only had a business card... maybe she would have gotten an offer from him.

That e-mail could have landed her that coveted summer job. So don’t make the mistake that Alex made, ladies. Remember…sometimes, it's the little things that count, even something as simple as a business card. 

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