Networking is a skill. Some people are inherently good at it, others need lots of networking practice before they achieve the results they want. However, improving your skills at networking and informational interviewing can mean the difference between job success and job search failure.
Some people excel at putting themselves in a position to effectively network, but then fail to assert themselves when necessary. Create an agenda and specific goals to achieve better results.
Making initial contact
When you email someone, have a purpose, and mention it in your email. If you want to learn about how to market yourself as a tax lawyer, then say that in your email. It makes it much easier for the other person to determine if they can help, and puts them in the right mindframe if they can be of use.
If you get a “sure, drop me a line next week and let’s get lunch,” then be sure to follow up. The onus is on you to get that initial meeting setup. Remember, they are helping you, not vice-versa.
Set an agenda
Either in your head, or literally on paper, have a list of topics you want to cover. If you are meeting with them, this is your chance to pump them for information. Attorneys love to hear themselves talk, so try and steer the conversation as much as you can.
It sounds corny, but bringing a list can help. It shows that you are serious, and it is a visual reminder to the other person that they need to answer your questions. If things get off-track, you can look down at it, or point to something on the list.
You do not want to be rude, but only you know what information you are looking for. Be direct, assert yourself, and get the information you want!
(photo: Michigan Municipal League (MML))