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Summary: School is where most of us develop strong bonds, and for savvy job seekers, alumni networks are where it’s at when it comes to getting advice and hearing about opportunities.
When people are in law school, they probably don’t think about how their late-night study sessions and commiserating over beers will lead to lifelong friendships and job networking opportunities. After all, they’re probably too busy trying to get the best grades and worrying about student loan debt. But it’s school where most of us develop strong bonds, and for savvy job seekers, alumni networks are where it’s at when it comes to getting advice and hearing about opportunities.
For those who’ve graduated and have not yet landed a position or those who are employed but looking to make a change, networking with alumni can lead to procuring work. But what is the most effective way to connect with alumni? How can one most effectively use their alumni network during the job search?
How alumni networks benefit your job search
Alumni can help with your job search in numerous ways. They can tell you about jobs or they can be the ones who are hiring. But even in other situations, alumni can prove to be fruitful. For instance, you can reach out to alumni and ask them for an informational meeting. In the meeting, you can learn more about their law firm or their practice area, and sometimes, this your interest can lead to an actual job offer or another introduction to someone who can help you. Even if those two things don’t happen, the informational meeting is still useful to gather what you need to know to take the next step in your career.
Where to meet alumni
The first place to turn when looking for job leads is people you already know through law school. Classmates, professors, and career advisors are great resources to ask about positions, and if they don’t know of anything, they more than likely can connect you with someone who is in the practice area in which you’d like to practice or at a firm you are interested in.
But what if you aren’t having luck with people you already know? Thankfully, there are several in-person and online groups you can join to meet your fellow law school graduates.
All law schools have some sort of alumni association set up. Alumni associations usually hold mixers, and although these types of events can seem cheesy, they are a good way to meet alumni you don’t know. Another benefit of networking events is that if you do meet someone in your practice area or in the firm you desire, you can talk to them face-to-face and use the opportunity as in impromptu informational meeting.
Alumni associations also tend to have exclusive job boards as well as a detailed directory of alumni. The directories often classify lawyers by where they work, where they’re located, and what practice area they are in. The best thing about this directory is that alumni who want their information publicly available make it so because they have fond memories of the law school and want to help out others. Access to these job boards and the contact database alone can make your five-figure or six-figure law school debt worth it if you use the contacts to your advantage.
If the phrase “networking events” fills you with dread, you can also meet alumni at college events like career panels, lectures, or even sports games or social gatherings. These events tend to be less stressful because there isn’t an expectation to talk shop, and you can get to know alumni in an informal setting and then ask for a follow-up coffee or lunch at a later date. To find these events, check out the school website, Meetup, social media, or through friends.
LinkedIn is the social media platform designed for job seekers and employers, and lawyers can use it to connect with alumni that they know and don’t know. On this platform, many alumni form private law school groups where they share industry news and job listings, and LinkedIn makes it easy to search users who list their law schools and their current and past companies. Well-written profiles also feature biographies that detail what each attorney focuses on and what some of their biggest cases have been.
To attract people to your page or get them to want to respond to you, make sure you fill out your profile completely, including using a professional photograph.
Out of the major social media platforms, Facebook is one of the most intimate. You “friend” people usually only when you actually know them, and people on Facebook tend to share personal moments such as birthday or engagement photos versus professional content that is found on LinkedIn or Twitter. Because of Facebook’s more personal nature, it’s actually a great resource for job hunting. You can reach out to your law school friends in a private message, you can join networking groups, or you can post on your wall about your job search. On Facebook, you should not friend alumni you don’t know. Save those types of connection requests for LinkedIn or Twitter.
Twitter is one of the broadest social media tools because of its feature, the “retweet.” Even someone with only 200 followers can end up with a viral tweet, and anyone can end up with a slew of followers if they continue to post quality content.
For savvy job seekers, they can use Twitter to post interesting insights about the legal world; and they can follow, like, and retweet alumni that they know and don’t know. For lawyers, one way to stand out on Twitter is to tweet about lawsuits and legal news, and to take it a step further, they can offer their insights into cases. Sometimes this can lead to controversy, but controversy may get you more attention and more followers, which could actually help you with the job search and attracting alumni who is hiring.
Twitter allows users to make their tweets private. If you are using Twitter to promote yourself and network, this isn’t a good idea because you won’t end up attracting followers and potential new contacts will not get to see your personality and thus will most likely not respond to you.
How to approach alumni you don’t know
The great thing about networking with alumni is that you have an automatic common ground, and most alumni are interested in helping their fellow law school graduates. So how do you connect with a person you don’t know? The most common way is to tell them in a short email who you are, why you wanted to meet with them, and ask if you could take them out to coffee or meet for lunch. Most people would be flattered that you want advice from them, but remember: although they may want to help you, they are also busy people and you should consider that even a response is taking up their valuable time. Treat their time with respect, and they will respect you.
Once at the meeting, come up with smart questions, and ask them for advice but don’t ask them for a job. If they end up liking you, they will offer to help you further, but if they don’t offer anything, it is either because they don’t have a job available or they don’t want to recommend you. If the latter is the case, don’t take it personally. Instead, view the meeting as valuable because you now are more knowledgeable about what to do next in your job hunt. Keep in mind that again they are doing you a favor by meeting you so don’t get pushy.
If the alumni you contacted cannot meet with you but responds to your email, ask your question in your reply or ask if you can do a quick phone chat. Make sure that you are accommodating to them and thank them for their time. Appreciation goes a long way and is remembered. The same can be said for entitlement. Whether you meet an alum online or in person, try to think about what value you can bring to them and not vice versa. If you form a positive bridge, you never know what the future could bring.
Where else can you network with alumni and what other alumni networking practices do you recommend? Let us know in the comments below.