For having chosen a client service business, many lawyers just don’t seem to seek out or enjoy personal interactions as much you’d think, especially in the context of a job search.
Perhaps this isn’t that surprising (see our article about lawyer personality types and our quiz about where you fit in). In the context of a job search, it turns out many of us would prefer to sit back and lob in job applications from behind the comfortable, controlled environment of our desks. It’s easy, it’s not too taxing, and it feels productive – you attach your documents, click to submit, and then you can focus on getting the work done for any number of demanding clients or colleagues. Except that doesn’t really work. Even though it’s harder to engage with actual people, you’re more likely to make a real connection, learn valuable tidbits and ultimately find and get a role you’re truly excited about if you meet and talk to real people.
You may know the next role you want. You might have an inkling and not be sure. Or maybe you’re fine where you are now but have a sense there might be something even better for you out there. Regardless of your situations, there’s only upside to finding people you’re interested in talking to and having a quick conversation with them. Call it an informational interview, call it coffee, or just call it a brief chat, but no matter what you call it, make sure you get out there and meet people in real life.
Of course, any well-trained lawyer would demand further support for the usefulness of informational interviews, so here are some more detailed benefits of incorporating informational interviews as part of your job search and your life.
Discover Trends and Opportunities
By meeting with those in roles or industries, or at companies, you’re most interested in, you’ll gain valuable insight into what they’re looking for and what it will take for you to join them. They can point you in the direction of what knowledge or skills would be most useful to focus on and improve to make yourself the most attractive candidate, and likely they’ll have certain helpful trends to share as well as a beat on where you might find some opportunities, even if not strictly within their organization.
Meeting with another professional in an area that interests you can make you aware of things you may not have thought of or give you a better understanding of a certain role or field. This type of information just cannot be gleaned from reading articles. A short, insightful conversation will yield you much more useful intel on the job, company or industry you’re interested in.
Most people are more than willing to speak about their work and profession. Their candid advice can help you to learn the skills and training needed for the job as well as guide you in your decision making while clarifying your career and employment goals. Ultimately you will be more informed and “in the know” when it comes time to meeting a decision maker in a formal interview.
Refine Your Approach
Often, speaking with someone is the best way to help you narrow your search and rule out jobs that you thought would be a good fit for you. When you meet casually in person, people are more likely to be candid with you and share their advice. It’s also likely the person you’re meeting with has had some twists and turns in their career, or at least considered various paths along the way, so you’re likely to walk away with their insights on a few areas you might have been interested in. In this way, one coffee meetup can help you further define your areas of interest and focus on those roles and industries in which you’re most likely to thrive.
This is not about meeting lots of new people superficially at an event and then possibly never being in touch with them again. This is the start of a personal connection that will ideally benefit both of you professionally in the long run. Getting to know someone in a role or field you aspire to, making a strong connection with them, and then keeping in touch – that’s how you build out a positive ecosystem of professional relationships. You’ll meet them, share some experiences, both enjoy yourselves (ideally) and remain in touch as you continue along with your careers. Good things will come out of making these genuine connections, even if it’s not entire what you expect. The person you’re meeting with is also likely to – and you should ask them by the end of your meeting if they don’t – offer to connect you to other people relevant to your interests, leading you onward to a more tailored and relevant group from which you can gain further insights.
Realize Hidden Opportunities
During an informational interview, you may find a work opportunity that has not yet been advertised or the person you’re meeting with might realize there’s a potential opening or chance to join the organization in a role they hadn’t even realize until meeting with you. Sharing your thoughts, ideas and interests with someone else can open their mind to a hidden need they, or someone they know, may not have considered before. And this is really one of the most useful ways to be introduced into the process when you’re looking for a new role. When hiring, people feel more comfortable hiring someone they know, or through someone they know, and that can get you an edge from the start and make all the difference.
Overcoming the Hurdle
While it’s instinctively clear to most lawyers that there are tangible benefits to seeking connection and information-sharing with people in roles or at companies in which they’re most interested, particularly in a low-key setting, many are still hesitant to reach out. That reluctance is normal, and some people may not be eager to meet with you or may not respond to you at all, but that doesn’t matter, it’s not personal, and it really shouldn’t hold you back from making these vital connections. And in general, people enjoy helping others and sharing their wisdom, just as hopefully you’ll be happy to do the same when someone reaches out to you for a quick meeting over coffee. So the best thing you can do next is to focus on the benefits of reaching out for these informational meetings, find a handful of people you’re interested in talking to, and put that coffee meeting on the books as soon as possible.
Search your professional network and reach out to three people you’d like to have a quick coffee with to talk about trends and opportunities.