Converting a Conversation into a Career

Post authored by Jack Bentley and Helena Gonzalez

How do I get a job?  It is a question on every law student’s mind as soon as they get past their first semester finals.  Yet it eludes a straight answer better than the most esoteric torts professor.  Like most questions of law, there is no “bright line test” that provides a clear answer.  However, there are a few strategies for a student or young attorney to keep in mind that may make the process easier…and maybe even enjoyable.

Invitations to fundraisers, socials, meet-and-greets, and happy hours provide opportunities to network, but they do not include a guideline or instructions on how to maximize the benefits of attending.  How does someone begin to network?

Consider that networking may be less about meeting the person who is going to hire you than it is about meeting the person who is going to introduce you to the person who is going to hire you.  Networking is not just about exchanging business cards at an event.  Rather it is the art of cultivating relationships and converting those relationships into career opportunities.

Like making new friends and maintaining existing relationships, networking is an ongoing, lifelong process.  Approach it as such.  Get to know more about who a person is rather than just what a person does. You may discover you share similar interests and experiences, or have mutual friends.

What does this all mean, exactly?

Imagine yourself at a bar with your friends, and after a while you notice another small group of friends further down the bar.  Someone in your group compliments the shoes of someone in the other group, and before you know it your group merges with the other group and everyone is chatting.  Now imagine that someone in that other group is the exact person who makes the hiring decisions at a law firm, agency, or company where you are hoping to work.  Outlandish as it sounds, this exact thing happened to me back in 2013 when I was looking for a job fresh out of law school.  The social conversation we had at a bar led to a substantive conversation about a career…and, ultimately as the relationship developed, with persistent emails and a phone call, the conversation evolved into a job offer.

This is the fundamental point: “networking” is not limited to events, interviews, and emails.  Networking is a daily, constant process.  Your friends are your network.  Your family is your network.  The people with phenomenal shoes at the bar are your network.  Eventually, yes, you will want to ask someone in your network for a job, but “networking” begins with the simple act of building a relationship first.

About the Authors:

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Jack E. Bentley is an Associate with Johnson & Bell with a practice in general negligence, employment, products liability, medical malpractice, municipal and governmental tort liability. Click here for Jack’s full bio.

 

 


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Helena Gonzalez is the Associate Director of Career Services and Employer Outreach at Chicago-Kent College of Law. Click here for Helena’s full bio.

 

 

 

Jack and Helena are the co-chairs of the YLS Career Assistance Committee. The Committee hosts lunch time programs on the 1st Wednesday of every month at The Chicago Bar Association Building. Meeting topics include job search techniques, networking strategies, lateral transfers, alternative career options including contract and more.

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