Having articled with a small firm, I was unable to leverage the name of a nationally recognized and respected law firm while searching for an associate position. As a result, I found myself with the unenviable task of having to aggressively self-market myself in order to secure a job.
In my mind, networking and I had been long-standing foes, and now I had to somehow move our relationship to the level of an acquaintance, if not good friend. A challenging task, though not how I originally thought.
Before being faced with an eternity of unemployment and living off my dwindling savings, I was convinced that I hated networking and could never put myself out there or be aggressive in a professional capacity. But desperation can be transformational.
I was surprised to find that going to networking events to meet more experienced lawyers, cold calling complete strangers, and asking anyone and everyone to read and pass on my resumé was relatively easy after my initial fears subsided. Soon cold calling and networking events became second nature, the real Achilles heel surfaced — networking can’t create a job where a need doesn’t exist.
Over and over I have heard from all directions how important networking is, and how it is the proverbial golden key to a hidden treasure trove of coveted jobs. The way people have raved about the benefits of networking, I’m almost surprised that it hasn’t shown me the secret of eternal youth or the elixir of life — something this celebrated must have deep and tangible benefits, right?
And while I have been regaled with completely true tales of how aggressive networking manoeuvres or even a lucky connection have helped to secure someone their dream job, such results are not guaranteed. You could be doing all the right things, but if the people you talk to are not hiring or know anyone who is, your efforts will not yield results. Sadly, even the best networking efforts cannot create a job where there is no demand, particularly in an economy where employers are reticent to take risks and there are countless people with similar backgrounds and experience to fill each available position. Your results could be significantly incongruous to your efforts.
Networking can also prove to be difficult when the majority of your contacts are people not in a position to influence hiring decisions. While it is true all of your contacts know an additional network of people who know an additional network of people and through this extended web there are most definitely important people who you want to meet, motivating people to advocate and act on your behalf can be a near impossible task. While many lawyers have enthusiastically offered to take my resumé and pass it along to anyone they know who may be looking to hire, I have sincere reservations that, more often than not, my resumé is collecting dust on desktops everywhere and my name has long been forgotten.
As a result of my efforts, I now have an impressive stack of business cards just begging to be turned into a craft project, sore and crippled feet from standing for hours at cocktail parties in heels, and a renewed alcohol tolerance that would make my 19-year-old self proud. However, I have not secured the one aim I had for this entire process — namely finding work as an associate lawyer.
On a positive note, I have scored some new acquaintances, engaged in many interesting conversations, and rekindled some old friendships. An impressive network of contacts, like the fabled Rome, was not built in a day and as such I remain hopeful that the connections I have made and continue to make will pay dividends in the future.
Christina Fitzmaurice graduated from the Dalhousie University Schulich School of Law in 2009 and was called to the Ontario bar in 2011.