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By: Jamie Collins
It’s FRIDAY!!! No more glorious words have ever been spoken…or typed, for that matter. We’re thrilled to have you back at TPS, to hang out, read an article, and hopefully, bask in a state of paralegal glory as you sip a caffeinated beverage of happiness, and read these words. Today, we’re here to talk about the topic of networking – the big what if.
What if you kept on reading?! By all means – please do.
A lot of people think online networking is overrated. Perhaps a few years ago, I would have agreed with them. I had no social media accounts back then, and sure didn’t think it was possible to build any truly meaningful connections with people from afar, whom I had never met. That’s all changed.
I’d like to tell you about two special people I’ve met this year through what, at the time, seemed like “normal” everyday, networking encounters. The kind that may or may not lead to something special.
About a year ago, I was approached by a girl named Clair, an aspiring paralegal. Without looking back at our first e-mail exchange, I couldn’t honestly tell you why she even reached out to me in the first place. I’m sure it was to ask a question or seek guidance after running across me on TPS, but I can’t recall the gist of our first communication. You see, it wasn’t the first exchange that truly bonded me and Clair. It was the many fluid exchanges that took place after that one. I actually got a real sense for who she was. She had a great sense of humor, and wasn’t afraid to ask me any question, even if she deemed it completely silly or foolish. She talked to me like a normal person, one of my close friends, and over time, our relationship continued to flourish.
It now makes me chuckle when I reflect back to receiving that random e-mail with her name on it so many months ago. A name I didn’t even know, from a person whom I had never met. It had found its way to me like so many others had, but this one would prove to be different. Life often has a way of bringing people straight across your path. People you would never otherwise meet via a chance encounter.
I found myself cheering for Clair during her job search and school endeavors (in hot pursuit of her second bachelor’s degree), in spite of the fact that there were many states standing between her and I. She was in the midst of a full-on, no holds barred, ready to land the dream, job search. One night, she e-mailed to ask if I’d review the cover letter she’d created prior to her actually sending it out to a potential employer.
I was tired. It was late. Was I in the mood to read a cover letter? Nope. I wasn’t – if I’m being completely honest. I opened it with the intent to quickly scan my eyes across the page, and respond with my thoughts promptly on a day called “tomorrow.” However, once I viewed the content, I just couldn’t help myself. Clair needed me. This letter needed me. This potential employer needed her…but just didn’t know it yet. I jumped right in, groggy, sleepy eyed and all, to help her rework it into a more suitable form. Despite my ultra tired persona in that moment in my living room, I really wanted Clair to land that job, even if it meant I’d be creeping up the Collins staircase to a full-on paralegal coma dream land a little behind schedule.
Perhaps one of my favorite memories occurred during one of the countless rounds of interview preparation, document tweaking, and advice sharing, which took place between the two of us during her Job Search Lollapalooza 2012. Clair and I had exchanged numerous e-mails regarding appropriate interview attire. It started out with me giving her a description of what kind of an outfit would be suitable for an interview. She would then give me the inventory of what she had, listing out key items, and we attempted to piece together what seemed like the most viable option for her to wear to this coveted interview. That’s when it happened.
Clair e-mailed me a picture. I opened it, and that’s when she had me. She had me at “arm length picture, taken of myself, standing in front of my bathroom mirror, flash bulb showing, neck craning back, so you can approve my outfit for the big day tomorrow” kind of a picture. I chuckled aloud, and candidly offered up my feedback between the two outfit selections she had sent me via the lavatory photography studio for aspiring paralegals.
You know what I liked most about Clair? She was real. She wasn’t trying to impress me by speaking to me (someone she had approached for mentorship) in an overly formal tone, but she wasn’t too casual either. She wasn’t worried about whether a particular question she wanted a response to was too stupid to ask. Now, that’s not to say she wasn’t professional in the beginning, but over time, the walls came down. The real Clair emerged. The fact that she would be willing to send me pictures of herself modeling outfits for my selection took the paralegal cake. What we had developed, from a single e-mail exchange that took place about a year ago in the foggy recesses of my mind, was a real relationship – a meaningful one. Whether we e-chat once a day, once a week or once a month, we know the line is always open.
Ironically, the second person I’m going to tell you about I just met one month ago. Her name is Brianna. I was perusing one of the paralegal forums on LinkedIn, when I came across a request for help from Brianna. She was looking for someone to review her resume and in search of some professional assistance, just as all of us are at one time or another. Having the resources (a/k/a the TPS secret weapon, Mariana Fradman) available to help, I decide to reach out via private message to say something along the lines of, “Hey, I saw your post. Send me your resume and I’d be happy to get someone who is great with resumes to review it for you.”
Certainly seems like I was helping her, doesn’t it?
Yet, this is where the networking path takes an interesting twist. We corresponded back and forth for a while via e-mail. She was funny, interesting, and shared a great deal about herself. I learned that Briana really likes to write. Being the TPS material stalker (did I just admit that publicly? I totally did, didn’t I…) that I am, I decided to ask if she’d be interested in writing an article for us. Just a few, short days later, I had her first article in hand – a really good one! She actually wants to become a regular contributor to TPS going forward! That’s exciting news for all of us! I reached out to help her, and in doing so, she ended up helping me, too. That’s often the way it goes with networking.
The moral of the story is, when networking, you never know where any singular, chance encounter will take you.
One request for help.
One e-mailed question.
One request for an opinion.
One exchange of ideas.
You have no idea where that one thing will lead you. You never know if that random person asking you a question today or the one you may be extending a little help to tomorrow will become one of the next special people in your life. One of the tremendous people you find sitting in your inner circle. You just never know.
So the next time someone reaches out to you or you to them, take a split second to allow yourself to spontaneously ponder the fun what ifs. What if…you’ll help her? What if…she’ll help you? And in the end…what if you both end up helping each other, and developing a fun and meaningful relationship along the social media highway?
“You must constantly ask yourself these questions: Who am I around? What are they doing to me? What have they got me reading? What have they got me saying? Where do they have me going? What do they have me thinking? And most important, what do they have me becoming?
Then ask yourself the big question: Is that okay?”
– Jim Rohn
For the first time since launching TPS, we’re officially taking a week off! So when you don’t see any new posts going up next week, no need to panic, alert the authorities or put The Paralegal Society logo on the side of a milk carton! It’s just that very rare, rare, rare [emphasis on “rare”] paralegal concept called “rest and relaxation.” No worries. We’ll be back soon, and better than ever!
Thoughts immediately come to mind of umbrella-topped beverages of happiness, overlooking the paralegal promise land of vacationing bliss, with no legal crises or panicked esquires in sight. (Um, yeah…better remember me to turn off that iPhone)!
We’ll see you in a week!