The worst part about networking is the word "networking." In most of us, the word itself stirs feelings of inexplicable anxiety. Thinking about "networking" conjures images of large conference rooms full of name-tagged strangers, uncomfortable conversations and the "what now?" confusion that comes from staring at the pile of 3" x 2" white trophy cards that you studiously collected.
Ask any successful attorney any number of questions, such as: What is the best advice you can give to law students? How do I find a job? How do I find a better job? To what do you owe your success? And you will always get the same response … "networking."
So, what gives? How did all of these people crack the secret code of networking? What do they know that you do not?
The answer is simple. Throw out the word "networking," with all of its connotations, and replace it with "making friends." The process of networking is not "work," as the evil linguist who crafted the word seems to imply. My network consists of strangers who became my friends, past colleagues, coworkers and employers whom I've kept in touch with, and the people I meet every day through introductions from those friends and acquaintances.
In fact, you already have a built-in network at this very moment; you have been networking making friends since the day you started law school, and your classmates will become part of your core network for the rest of your career. But I know that's not very helpful right now.
Consider joining an organization where you will see the same people again and again, because if you think about it, that's how you always make friends. Most bar associations actively encourage law students to become involved, come to section meetings and attend social gatherings. The Massachusetts Bar Association and the American Bar Association have law student sections that meet regularly, and other publication contributors have touted the benefits of affinity bar associations that actively encourage recurring law student attendance. Also, consider reaching out to bar associations or your school's career services office to learn about local volunteer groups that law students can become involved with.
The first time you enter the room, everyone will be a stranger, but it doesn't have to be that way the second time. As with everything, it is important to diversify your networking techniques, but why not start with an easy one? Find a place to make friends, and everything else will come easier. It's never too late or too early to get started, so why not now?
Jason E. Armiger is a litigation associate at Gesmer Updegrove LLP. His practice focuses on commercial litigation and employment law in the emerging technology market. Armiger is involved in the local Boston startup community, and he is the secretary-elect for 2017/2018 Board of Directors for the MBA's Young Lawyers Division. Jason graduated from Boston College Law School in 2012.
School of Thought is a regular column geared for law student members.