- Don't ask outright for a job. Don't mention hiring unless you know that person is in charge of hiring and there is definitely an opening. To ask about potential openings when there aren't any is the fastest way to get the door closed in your face. What you want to do is expand your network of contacts with each encounter. Ask to meet a practicing lawyer to talk about her job or to pick her brains about how best to proceed with your job search. Make it clear that you're not expecting her to line up an interview for you -- just give you some advice.
- Don't be shy. Ideally, you should be calling your potential contacts, but if you don't think you can manage that, then send a politely worded e-mail. Make sure you introduce yourself, highlight what you and your potential contact have in common and what you would like from them. If you can, meet them in person -- people remember faces better than names and phone calls. If you feel bad, remember that you're not trying to freeload. You're offering valuable skills that will be useful to the right firm or agency. And you can return the favor when some young graduate approaches you several years from now.
- Don't give them your resume. Unless they specifically ask for it. A resume highlights your best accomplishments, but it is also a way to compartmentalize you. You need to engage the contact in conversation to show them who you really are and what you're looking for. If you do give them a resume, make sure it's at the end of your meeting or a day later, after they've gotten to know you. That way, they'll remember you more as a person than a piece of paper.
- Be persistent. Some people will turn you down outright. Others will be discouraging. Just keep going -- you'll find more helpful people than unhelpful ones.
- Ask for other contacts. At the end of your meeting or in your thank-you note, ask (politely) if your contact can think of anyone else that might be helpful to talk to. This is how you keep networking. If this person isn't helpful, then perhaps his friend or brother-in-law or co-worker might be.
- Be grateful. Send a thank-you note or a follow-up phone call or e-mail. Even if this person wasn't especially helpful, make it clear that you appreciated the time she gave you. Courtesy is essential and perhaps this person will think of you if something does come up in the future.
- Use your referrals. Always highlight your connection to a potential contact. Write "Referred by&" in the subject line of your emails. Talk about the college you both attended.
Regardless whether you rely on campus interviews or your own job search methods, there are two things that are essential in both processes: your resume and your interview.
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