Career Crossroads: Informational Interviews and Networking - Part 3

The internal work of self-assessment and identifying your support network (discussed in part 1 and part 2 of this series, respectively) are the beginning of the career transition journey. With a good handle on those stages, we now move to expanding our search by way of networking and interviewing. We touched briefly on self-marketing and applying in Step 5 of the career transition process, so we’ll now take a deeper dive into networking and the three types of informational interviews. 

Networking is one of those long-standing corporate buzzwords that is sometimes associated with tedious small talk or superficial social gatherings. While certainly not all networking events are created equal, a thoughtfully planned networking program is one of the best tools for lawyers during a career transition. How do we evaluate which networking opportunities will be worthwhile? Look at the background of the event organizer - are they situated in the career or specialty you are seeking out? Do you know anyone who has participated in the event previously or who plans to attend a future event? Search for keywords in the event or program materials. For career changes specifically, LAPBC facilitates a What Can You Do with a Law Degree four-part workshop and organizes a program called Transitions with a panel of lawyers talking about how they successfully transitioned.  

Let’s move to the three types of informational interviews and how we go about identifying and approaching each scenario appropriately: 

The Classic

The interviewer acts as an investigative reporter of sorts, asking questions to discover who the person is sitting across from them, whether face to face or through a screen. Questions are often framed in percentages - for example, how much of your work life is spent on client interactions? The answer will add shape to the interviewee’s character and work style. A high percentage of time spent with clients may be vital in one area of practice (family law comes to mind) but less helpful in other areas. A practical note on these types of interviews - leave the resume at home. If the interviewer requests a resume, you can always follow up with that information, but the focus of the classic interview is on the individual and the conversation. Remember to ask for names of other people in their network for you to talk to. Within 72 hours, send a thank you note.

The Mentoring

Resumes welcome! The mentoring interview type is motivated by seeking wise counsel. The mentor-minded interviewer could be a potential career champion. Be upfront about your intention - you are actively engaging them for guidance and advice so come prepared with your own questions. Resumes are welcome here as you will want the interviewer’s professional feedback on how your resume presents. Through their professional lens, they can advise on what is relevant on your resume and what can be edited, eliminated, or expanded. Remember to ask for names of other people in their network for you to talk to. Within 72 hours, send a thank you note.

The Marketing

This is the time to “suit up.” Polished resume in hand, the marketing interview is the forum to market yourself. Whether looking for an offer of employment from the interviewer themselves or with someone they are connected with, this is the interview to pull out all of the professional stops. In preparation, take the time to sit down and list all of your previous jobs longhand, along with the skills you used in each one. These lists should be detailed and comprehensive. Take the completed lists and use a red pen to remove the skills that no longer serve you. Use a marker to then highlight the skills you do want to use in your future career. The finalized list, and the mental muscle memory it took to complete it, will provide resource material for all future marketing interviews. You’ll be able to speak confidently and clearly on the skills you bring to a new role. 

As lawyers, we are accustomed to moving in different circles and interacting with individuals from a wide range of backgrounds. This ability is key throughout all networking scenarios and the interviewing process. No matter the setting, proceed confidently with the knowledge that your innate skills as a lawyer will serve you well in whichever career arena you choose. 

Shari R. Pearlman
Shari R. Pearlman joined LAPBC near the end of 2020.