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Eight Reasons Why Lawyers Resist Effective Networking--How to Show Your True Value

Job searching today is different than in the past for lawyers - find news ways to show that you stand out as a good investment for employers.

Grappling with the job search process?  Wrap your mind around the paradox of legal job searches in the current economy

In today's job market, many law students and lawyers are frustrated looking for jobs by just sending out resumes and cover letters.  It can be overwhelming and mysterious to think about how you can stand out and make your application rise to the top of the pile.  Whether applying for a firm job, clerkship, or in-house position, the employer reviewing your materials is running a business.

There are two sides to the story of hiring, from both the employer and candidate perspective.  Switch hats and think about what a potential employer is considering when looking at a sea of candidates.

Shauna Bryce, the author of How to Get a Legal Job: A Guide for New Attorneys and Law School Students , and creator of the membership website under the same name, has gathered knowledge through researching and connecting with numerous hiring partners at firms across the nation.  This former BigLaw attorney had great success in the legal field, but has now shifted to share her knowledge with the masses of law students and lawyers throwing their hats in the rings for jobs.

Today, Shauna shares her thoughts with us on two important topics: 1) what is going through a hiring partner's mind when considering taking on a new hire and 2) how to overcome resistance to networking as an integral part of your job search and career planning.

Hiring isn't just a matter of bringing on another attorney. Hiring is an investment.

Armed with this new information, hopefully you can navigate the waters of job searching in today's legal economy with a bit more savvy:

Employers encounter costs like the time of human resources personnel, recruiter commissions, placement of job ads online or elsewhere, time of attorneys to review resumes and interview, and more. Once the new lawyer is on-board, employers not only have to pay salary, but also payroll taxes, health insurance, and other benefits or obligations. They have to provide you with office space, administrative support (if you're lucky), technology, and other necessities. Most of all, they have to train you-in substantive law, legal procedure, office policies and procedures, case management, client management, office politics, and everything else involved in being a successful practicing lawyer.

Your transition from law student to practice attorney happens on their time and dime.  So to get hired, you need to prove to them that you are worth that investment.

Networking is an integral factor in standing out and showing you are a good investment.  So why do so many lawyers resist it?

The most common reasons students and junior attorneys are intimidated by networking-or simply don't want to do it-are:

1. They think networking is selfish. But networking isn't calling someone and asking for a job, or for help getting a job; networking is reciprocal. It's building a group of interconnected relationships whereby the entire group can work together to reach their individual goals.

2. They undervalue the power of networking. People who don't network are literally unaware of all the opportunities they've missed. Senior lawyers have told me the majority of their professional and personal opportunities (clients, leadership, speaking engagements, political appointments, job openings and hiring, board memberships, and more) have come to them passively through their network. Most did not have to go after these opportunities; the opportunities came to them. And when they did look for opportunities, their network helped.

3. They get frustrated if there is no immediate pay-off for their efforts. Networking is a long-term activity. You may see immediate dividends, or it may take a long time to pay off. You just never know. But it's a game you can't win if you're not involved.

4. They don't realize networking is a learned skill. No matter how shy, introverted, or unconnected you believe you are, you can learn to network successfully. It only requires that you want to learn.

5. They think they don't have access to a network. People often claim they don't have a network, and use that as an excuse not to get started. But everyone has a network. Start with family, extended family, neighbors, classmates, former classmates, colleagues from internships and other work, and others you know personally.

6. They don't aim high. Once you get started, don't limit your networking to your peers, who have little or no influence on hiring or career development. You need to reach higher up the ladder. Some of the easiest ways to do this are to extend your network to include alumni, professionals with common interests and goals, more senior lawyers at your employer, bar association members, and others.

7. They don't want to do the work. If you think of network as work, then it becomes work. If you think of it as building enduring (or short-term) professional friendships, finding people whose missions and organizations you can assist, and learning about the industry, then its much easier to do. Even so, investing in networking takes less time than you'd think-even 30 minutes a week can lead to lasting relationships and huge impacts on your career.

8. They're afraid of rejection. As you expand your network to meet new people, you're bound to run into rejection. More likely, however, you'll run into apathy; people simply don't respond to your inquires or email. But so what? Again, it can takes very few "hits" to change your career. So what do you have to lose?

The moral of the story is that employers crave finding a diamond in the rough who stands out as a good investment for their business, and by networking effectively you can increase your chances of standing out.

Want to tap into more of Shauna's expertise and knowledge?  Need a professional to review your resume and cover letter or help you map out a job search plan?  Pick up her book How to Get a Legal Job: A Guide for New Attorneys and Law School Students , and consider connecting with Shauna and her resources through exclusive Member Benefits.

Also, please feel free to share comments below regarding your struggles and triumphs in job searching and networking.  Has Shauna inspired you to approach networking or job searching differently?

Chelsea Callanan is the founder of Happy Go Legal, a multi-media resource for new and aspiring legal professionals.  Mrs. Callanan is a 2008 graduate of the University of Maine School of Law, and currently practices at Murray, Plumb & Murray in Portland, Maine, focusing on corporate and intellectual property needs of business of all sizes.