On Networking

Never underestimate the power of networking to further your ambitions. I must say that is the principal thing I’ve learned while being in the Capitol. Just hearing the word “networking” makes me cringe inwardly. Why? Well, I’m an introvert so talking to people I don’t know is something I dread. I fear that I will end up having a completely awkward and stilted conversation and make a horrible impression. Also, the way some people present it makes it sound like you’re taking advantage of someone rather than getting to know them and seeing if they have any information you can use.

I am definitely looking forward to law school, but with trepidation. Everything I’ve read says that law school is thankless and demanding, and the practice of law is even more so. Furthermore, public interest work drains your spirit and leaves you destitute. And believe me, that is no exaggeration of what I’ve actually heard! But the sponsor for my summer internship hosted a networking dinner and panel that proved very fruitful. I met a Harvard Law graduate and environmental litigator who loved law school, and loves her job as well. Happy lawyers do exist! I am so glad I met her, because she is where I want to be someday. Seeing a living, breathing example of someone who doesn’t regret their career decision calmed my fears, and reassured me that I’m not making a huge mistake.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I have been drawn to two career paths– law and non-profits. I thought that I would merge the two by pursuing a J.D./MPA (Master’s in public administration) dual degree program, but found out today that may not be necessary. I had coffee with a non-profit consultant last week, and she said that since I would already be working in the non-profit sector, after a few years of working as a lawyer I would have the experience I needed to more into policy work if I desire. “The J.D. and MPA are both advanced degrees, so you don’t need both. If you really want to do policy, get your Master’s first and think about getting a J.D. later. But if you really want to be a lawyer, don’t worry about the Master’s. You don’t want to spend your whole life in school.”

Hmmm. Getting a Master’s only adds one year to my grad school trajectory–but that’s one more year of loans, and one more year before I can enter the workforce. I’ve been thinking about it and I really might forgo the Master’s. I can accomplish the same good deeds as a lawyer, and I want to be a judge someday so I have to say that practicing law is my primary career goal. I’m so glad I was able to meet with this woman because she had the experience needed to give me an educated opinion on my situation.

So, to all of you introverts out there I say– get out there and network! You could missing out on meeting someone who has the knowledge you need to figure out your own path. And if you ask an open ended question such as “How did you get where you are today?” or “What’s the advice you wish someone had told you when you were in my position?”, the conversation starts to flow pretty freely. Most folks are more than happy to help someone with a genuine interest in their field.

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