Do You Have Time for Coffee and Networking?

coffee-2-644967-mAlison and I enjoy visiting law schools. A few weeks ago, I was visiting a small law school in San Francisco to sit on a panel about the job hunt, something we discuss a lot these days. There were about 20 people in attendance, which is actually a really good turnout for a career-related event at a small school. The students asked great questions and were very engaged in the panel discussion. After the panel, a number of students approached me and asked for a business card. This is pretty typical, as I hand out lots of business cards at events. But then something different happened.

A number of these students followed up with me after the event.

I have talked before about the importance of taking time to attend events and sending follow-up emails as part of networking. But you know what? Most people still don’t follow up. But these law students did. They sent me emails, asked me questions, and asked if I would have coffee with them. And, because I like to reward someone who has a good hustle, I now have a number of coffee dates with law students in the next couple of weeks.

But since we are talking about time management this month, I wanted to combat one common excuse I hear for not following up: “I just don’t have time.”

I haven’t been out of law school so long that I don’t remember how busy it was. I remember long nights at the library and endless to-do lists. When you are staring at the calendar and realizing that you have only six weeks left before final exams, it can be daunting and scary. You may feel that you don’t have time to do anything else but study, study, study.

 But, unfortunately, in this job market, you don’t have the luxury to “just study” anymore. You have to hustle.

 You have to get out there and meet people, ask questions and network. You can’t ignore your job hunt or building your network. Because along with studying, your job hunt and your network are how you are going to propel yourself forward to land your next internship or job after graduation. Grades aren’t good enough anymore for most of us. You have to set aside some time for things like coffee dates.

And who doesn’t like a good networking coffee date?

 There are many other reasons, beyond networking, that you should make time for coffee dates.

  1. Who doesn’t need more coffee during the day?
  2. It will likely take only an hour, as professionals are pretty busy, but it will be a nice break from the grind.
  3. You might actually be more inspired to study, if you start focusing on your long-term career goals by meeting with people and talking about the future.
  4. Typically, a working lawyer will offer to buy your cup of coffee, because we all remember being kind of broke while we were in law school. So you might even end up with free coffee!

Above all, you can’t ignore networking opportunities just because they aren’t as convenient as you want them to be. You don’t want to ignore your studies, but you have to keep the big picture in mind—moving your entire career forward. I am not suggesting you take four coffee dates a week; that would be impractical and maybe feed into a bad caffeine habit. But what if you just did one a week? Or one every two weeks? That wouldn’t detract much from your work, but it would help you invest in your future outside the classroom.

It is a new reality out there, guys. These law students I met with and who followed up appreciate the need for balancing the hustle with their academics. Are you taking advantage of every chance to network and meet people? Or are you just burying your head in your work and missing valuable opportunities? It is an important question to ask yourself.

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About Lee Burgess

Lee Burgess, Esq. is the co-founder of the Law School Toolbox, a resource for law students that demystifies the law school experience, the Bar Exam Toolbox, a resource for students getting ready for the bar exam and Trebuchet, a legal career resource. Lee is also the founder of Amicus Tutoring, LLC, a company she started to help students find success in law school and on the California bar exam. Lee has been adjunct faculty at two bay area law schools teaching classes on law school and bar exam preparation. You can find Lee on Twitter at @amicustutoring, @lawschooltools, @barexamtools & @trebuchetlegal.

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