Coronavirus is the hot topic on everyone’s mind at the moment. It’s impossible to escape talking about it, and since most likely your classes have shifted to Zoom screens and you may be having a lot of anxiety about what it means for your ability to network with prospective firms, I wanted to address some ways that you can continue networking without risking your health or your relationship building efforts.
We live in an age where technology enables us to keep in touch without having to come in physical contact – so whether you’re practicing social distancing because it’s recommended, or you’re in an area with a “shelter in place” order, there are still some things you can do to continue your relationship-building plans.
Set up meetings using Zoom or Skype: At this point, you’ve most likely cancelled any or all social gatherings/meetings/events that you had on your upcoming schedule (and if you haven’t, I’d recommend that you do). But you don’t have to outright cancel if you can replace them with a video call – it’s not exactly the same as if you were in the room together, but it allows you to connect in a stronger way than only a phone call. Also, it’s a decent substitute while we wait for the health crisis to abate to begin to resume our travel and meetings again. You get the benefit of seeing someone’s face and body language, while still remaining separated by a screen.
Join conferences or seminars the same way: Many organizations are offering free conference attendance or free webinars and seminars at the moment – take advantage of these. Even if you weren’t previously planning to attend, particularly if you would have the ability to connect with some of the attendees, log on and get involved. You may “meet” connections that you wouldn’t previously have had access to, and you can also follow up with them after the session to connect on LinkedIn, and let them know how valuable you found their content. A small caveat on this – lawyers at the moment are fairly swamped with figuring out how to navigate remote work and support their clients, so pushing heavy networking at the moment won’t serve you. But you can reach out for that initial touch and make a note in your own schedule to follow up later for a more in-depth conversation.
Ramp up your social media efforts: You are already online looking up news on the virus (I know you are), so spend some of that time connecting with your contacts instead. Review your connections on your various platforms and do a few key things:
- Identify anyone that you haven’t reached out to recently that you should reconnect with, and send them an invitation for a video conference chat. If you want to make it over coffee or lunch, do that in your “home office” and bond over self-quarantining. Be prepared that some of them may not have the time at the moment, but if you can identify a way that you’d be of value to them and suggest that, the connection will be especially welcome.
- Make a list of potential firms/lawyers that you’d like to get to know better, and reach out to them on social media. Connect with them on LinkedIn, and do some additional research on the types of things they’re posting and sharing. Follow their company pages and see what they’re posting. Firms are posting an exceptional amount of information at the moment about the coronavirus/COVID-19, so you’ll really get a lot of information not only about the particular practice areas that the firm is highlighting for this outbreak, but the way in which the firm addresses a crisis, how they deliver information, the effectiveness of their content, etc. This may provide you with some additional context in your search for a firm that fits with the type of culture that you’re looking for.
- Make it a practice to reach out to 5-10 people a day on LinkedIn – either share an article they’ve authored, comment on a status update they’ve shared, send them a note with a video meeting request, or a request to connect. Use the time that you would be spending on in-person networking to do more online networking.
- Explore some of the other social media platforms out there to see where the potential clients of your future firms are – are they using Twitter? Facebook? Snapchat? Instagram? If they’re not hanging out in those places, don’t worry, you don’t have to either. But if you see them using and engaging on those networks, it’s worth knowing about them – this may seem to be way ahead of the game, since you’re not even doing legal work yet, but if you see clients or potential clients of the firm that you want to work for using a social platform that the firm isn’t yet using, you could take a leap of faith and suggest that platform to the lawyers that you’re in contact with as another channel to show yourself as a valuable resource.
Do some writing of your own: While classes are continuing online, there isn’t much out there being written on the perspective of the legal student who is facing the realities of quarantine during coronavirus. Authoring an authentic and professional blog about navigating these waters, the challenges and opportunities, would be a unique viewpoint that would draw the attention of firms looking for their next group of associates. During uncertain times, whatever you can do to stand out is a valuable asset.
You may be spending more time at home over the next few months because of Coronavirus, but it doesn’t mean that your networking efforts have to be suspended. As long as you get creative about the ways in which you approach your reaching out to “touch” someone, you’ll stay connected AND healthy. And remember, wash your hands!