Networking is essential to getting to know the world of public interest law. Getting a job interview is not your immediate goal, and if you approach networking expecting your contact to offer you a job, you will likely be disappointed. Instead, networking offers you an opportunity to learn more about a particular field of law or organization. Try to meet people who can offer advice for your search, answer questions about career choices, and provide you with the names of more contacts who may be able to help you get further along in the process of finding a job. They can give you a closer look at the practical aspects of their own jobs and provide details that you may find critical when deciding where to apply.
Take advantage of “easy networking” resources available at HLS, such as attending OPIA’s events, meeting with a Wasserstein Fellow or talking with an HLS faculty member with a public interest focus. Also, be sure to check out this informational interviews template from UC College of the Law, San Francisco.
- Learn more about the day-to-day realities of public interest positions
- Hone in on your options by talking to lawyers in jobs that sound appealing
- Learn about public service jobs through the “hidden market”; not all public interest jobs are posted and networking can help you find out about and land open positions
- Look beyond the short-term goal of acquiring your next job to the task of building relationships with contacts that will be beneficial for your future career path
Compiling a Contact List
- Identify people who may provide relevant information on your career interests and job search, or refer you to others who can
- Consider the following sources for networking contacts:
- Alumni through past Heyman Fellows working in federal government, the directory of fellowship recipients in the Insider’s Guide to Successful Fellowship & Grant Applications, and alumni spotlights in the OPIA blog. HLS Amicus connects student and alumni communities through one-to-one advising and group mentoring.
- Professors, including visitors and clinical faculty.
- Other students interested in public service work or who have held public service jobs, including students on the Who Worked Where lists
- Speakers and panelists at on-campus events, conferences, and Wasserstein Fellows.
- Public Interest Judges who had public interest background themselves, expressed an interest in public service in previous communications to both OPIA and to OCS, and were named by HLS advisors or alumni as valuing public interest backgrounds of applicants.
- Graduates working in areas that sound nominally interesting.
- In some instances, your first contact with an individual or organization may come from inquiring about open positions: if a public interest employer indicates that the office has no current job openings, ask to set up a meeting to learn more about the office’s work
- Do not be discouraged if you have only a few people on your list at first; each contact will direct you to more people and the numbers in your networking circle will soon multiply
- Send emails to your networking contacts (see sample emails) and ask for a phone or in-person meeting
- Attach your resume to give your contact a better idea of your background and experience (suggested, but not required)
- When appropriate, mention the mutual acquaintance who referred you or how you learned about your contact (e.g., you saw the person speak on a panel)
- Make sure your contact understands that you are not looking for a job interview, but only an opportunity to discuss your career and obtain some professional feedback
- For more information about the etiquette of contacting networking contacts, check out OPIA’s Professionalism Guide.
Preparing for Your Networking Meeting
- Come to every meeting prepared so that you do not waste the person’s time by asking basic details you could learn easily on your own
- For a networking meeting, also referred to as an informational interview, you are the interviewer! After spending a few minutes breaking the ice, it will be up to you to focus the conversation
- Refer to our list of sample questions to ask during an informational meeting
- Bring a pen and paper with you to write down any names, phone numbers, emails or other information you may obtain in the meeting
- Try out a networking session with people that you are comfortable with, such as relatives and friends, and remember to ask for concrete feedback; networking, like any other skill, requires practice!
Concluding and Following Up
- At the end of the meeting, ask your contact for referrals to other people who may be helpful
- Try keeping the appointment under thirty minutes and give your contact the option of concluding the meeting at that time
- Thank your contact warmly at the end of the meeting or phone call
- Send a thank you note by email within 24 hours after your networking meeting
- Follow-up with your networking contact with updates on the status or outcome of your job search