Expert Opinion: Five Ways to Strengthen Your Professional Network This Summer

Today’s Expert Opinion column, on five concrete ways to strengthen your professional network this summer, comes to us from Alisa Rosales. Alisa is the Associate Director of Public Service Law at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago, where she specializes in public interest career advising and program development. Nationally, she is a member of the NALP PSLawNet Advisory Board and serves as NALP Public Service Section Chair.  Locally, Alisa developed and served as inaugural Chair of the Public Interest Committee for the Chicago Area Law School Consortium. She is an alumna of the University of Nebraska.

I’ve been using my commute time to read this summer on various timely topics — legal education reform, networking, mentoring, and general career development. Here’s five things students can engage in to build on and strengthen their networks:

  1. Use Your Lunch Hour Productively: Attend a lunchtime seminar (the various bar associations, policy groups, and the College of Law offer programs throughout the summer), go out with the other interns/law clerks/summer associates to find out about others’ projects and interests, check out the latest free art exhibit with a law school classmate. It doesn’t have to be all about law school, sometimes it is just spending some time to strengthen a bond and get to know someone a little better. Though outside the lunch hour, attend events suggested to you by other attorneys, especially those supervising you, and set up coffee conversations with folks whose work or passions interest you.
  2. Retool your resume and sync your online presence: Developing the habit that each time you update your resume or your profiles online (LinkedIn/Google/Yahoo!/Facebook etc. profiles, Twitter bio, email signature line, wherever you control your image online), you need to update them all. It looks sloppy when you’ve missed one, so if you’re not already checking your online presence regularly, start and regularize this habit.
  3. Use Your Free Time Freely: Volunteer with something that you love, read a couple of books for fun, find some free things to do around town (@explorechicago on Twitter has some great stuff in Chicago), and just chat with people in line or on public transportation. It will make you practice communicating on the fly and you never know who you might meet while giving that doggie her bath at the shelter.
  4. Develop a follow-up plan: You know a lot of people, you meet a lot of people. How are you keeping track of them all? (Using Sneider’s exercises in her book below will help you consider who you know.) Have you developed a way to reach out that doesn’t feel too often nor too infrequent? Contemplate what you have to offer your network, even if it is just forwarding an article on a mutual area (or just the other person’s area) of interest. Not everyone is using all the same tools (not everyone will be on LinkedIn for example), so you need to determine if using some kind of Excel worksheet or notebook system (see Gerson’s Networking Log in her book below for an example) will work best for you. While you’re at it, update your address book so you can create your holiday card list early.
  5. Make an appointment with your career adviser: We’re here all summer and we’ll meet with you via phone if necessary. We want to hear about what you’re working on this summer, what has excited you, and what has not. We’ll be happy to encourage you on what you’re doing well plus brainstorm some new ideas on career development, retooling your resume, crafting cover letters, and so much more. We’re part of your networking team too.

Alisa’s Summer Reading List: Never Eat Alone (Ferrazi), Best Friends at the Bar (Smith Blakely), Educating Lawyers (Carnegie Report), To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee), Introduction to Type Dynamics and Development (Myers & Kirby), Revolt on Goose Island (Lydersen), Building Career Connections (Gerson), The Legal Career Guide: Law Student to Lawyer (Garner), A Lawyer’s Guide to Networking (Sneider).

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