Networking is an important component of many job searches. Many law students secure their summer and full-time positions through networking and the majority of seasoned attorneys will make lateral moves based on networking connections.
While attending events and making small talk with people you never met before is one form of networking, it is by no means the only form or the most effective. For example, sending a letter to a guest speaker letting her know how much you enjoyed the event, and asking if she may have 15 minutes to talk by phone so you can gain her insight into a specialty area is an extremely effective form of networking.
One of the most valuable resources available to you is the network of YLS alumni. YLS has over 12,000 alumni working in virtually every corner of the globe. When deciding where to work, be sure to tap into these alumni for information. Some of the methods for connecting with our alumni include:
YLS Career Connections. This is an online searchable database of over 1,700 YLS alumni who have offered to provide career advice to students and fellow graduates. Use this resource to locate graduates practicing in fields of interest to you and contact them for information and advice.
Yale University Career Network. Many alumni from Yale University and its graduate programs have joined the University’s Career Network and offered to provide career advice to students and fellow graduates.
In many cases alumni are willing to share information with you about their post-graduate career paths, including overviews of their employing organizations, their practice area, and the responsibilities associated with their position. In order to maximize the opportunity to learn from these professionals, you should approach the process of contacting alumni in the same professional manner as you would approach an employer directly.
When reaching out to alumni or others for career advice, the conventional starting point is to send an email stating your request, and asking whether there is a convenient time for the two of you to talk. If you have been referred to the person from a mutual acquaintance, be sure to mention that. Reassure your contacts that you are NOT seeking a job interview, only an opportunity to discuss your career ideas and obtain some professional feedback. For example, when sending an email to a member of YLS Career Connections, you may wish to say something like:
“I am currently a 1L at Yale Law School, and I plan to pursue a career in entertainment law in Los Angeles. I found your profile on YLS Career Connections, and notice that you have had great success in the entertainment industry. I would be grateful for the opportunity to speak with you about your experiences at YLS and your career path. Please let me know if there is a convenient time for us to talk. Thank you in advance for your help.”
If you have the opportunity to meet with an alumnus/a or other attorney for networking purposes, be prepared with a general knowledge of the subject you plan to discuss and some questions. Students are encouraged to review the tips on conducting an informational interview.
Limit your discussion to 20 to 30 minutes, unless the attorney expresses an interest in extending the discussion. Attempt to get the names of two or three people for further networking. You should bring your resume for the individual to review and critique (or email it in advance), but do not attempt to solicit employment. At the meeting and in a subsequent email or letter, express your appreciation to the individual for taking the time to meet with you. Keep the people in your network periodically updated about your career.