I meet courageous newly-called lawyers all the time. They are courageous because they engage in networking to look for work even though it scares them to death!
What frightens them often boils down to three things:
- They don’t feel confident about what they are doing.
- They feel they need to be asking for a job.
- It seems to take a lot of time and energy.
“HELP, I NEED SOMEBODY!”
Networking is probably the most important tool for a new-call to master to be successful at a job search. Many of my clients find it difficult to network properly because they stumble over its purpose. It’s not just about getting a job! Such an approach is short sighted and can lead to disappointing results very quickly.
At this early stage, networking can help a new-call by:
- Meeting people in an interested area of practice,
- Gathering information and ideas that will clarify and/or bolster a job search,
- Building a web of relationships that will be maintained and accessed throughout one’s career.
I hear about networking emails going unanswered all the time likely because the subject line is addressed as “new-call seeking associate position.” I’m not saying this is always an inappropriate approach. I am saying that when it comes to the post-hire back season, the legal profession is keenly aware of the pool of candidates looking for work.
By asking a direct question like, “do you have a job?” puts the person in a position of answering “yes” or “no”, and from the new-call’s perspective, there is no benefit to ending the conversation there. You’ve not gained any information or leads…just a “NO”! Not a nice feeling.
“BUT I need a job!”
Informational interviews are an excellent way to network. They should not, however, be confused with a job interview. A job interview is set up by an employer for the specific purpose of hiring a candidate. An informational interview, on the other hand, is set up by an individual for the purpose of gathering more information. You should not, therefore, be asking for a job.
By focusing on an open-ended approach, you are building a bridge for future conversations and hopefully cultivating a valuable member of your network. It may seem counterintuitive, but by not being so direct in asking for a job, you are essentially setting yourself up for being told about future job opportunities. In other words, don’t be so desperate. Stay composed, respectful and professional at all times. When done correctly, one out of every 12 informational interviews can lead to a job offer.
What does an open-ended approach look like? Think of the litigation skills you’ve learned to examine a witness in chief: who, what, where, when, how. Being curious about the lawyer’s work will allow you to assess the suitability of a practice area or environment. It also gives the lawyer a chance to speak about themselves…ah hem! Seriously though, I believe the vast majority of lawyers are willing to spend some time with new-calls in their transition.
“A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT”
Many new-calls reach out to me at this time of year exhausted by the “sprint” they’ve engaged in since not being hired back. Pacing yourself is important especially when you consider that most work anniversaries in the legal profession (see LinkedIn) occur in the fall months. Also consider that job opportunities for new-calls are not often advertised. This trend has been changing over the last few years; however, it would be unwise to rely exclusively on a passive job search at such an early stage of your career.
Networking can reveal job opportunities that will never be advertised (aka “the hidden job market”). The statistics can range, but unadvertised jobs can comprise 20% to 95% of the market. Any way you look at it, I don’t think you want to discount this avenue.
What you want to focus on is building meaningful relationships. This takes time and a sincere effort. If you add more substance to these relationships and get to know people better, it will be easier for them to sponsor you for an opportunity and for you to support their career.
How will you approach your networking differently?
How will you support a new-call in their job search efforts?