I was flying back to San Francisco from the East Coast on Thursday night, and I sat next to a young woman who was, for me, a perfect example of how not to network. I thought it merited a blog post.
Basically, I sat next to her for about four hours, and despite three tries by me to initiate a conversation, she did not take the bait. Specifically, although I volunteered that I had been a lawyer, and was from San Francisco, she did not follow up at all and learned nothing at all about me. A few additional details will explain why this was such a mistake for her.
First, when we sat down, I noticed that she was reading (and highlighting) a casebook on securities law. I learned that she was a third-year law student at the University of Virginia, and she was going to the Bay Area for a Labor Day vacation with some friends.
Now, it's a reasonably hypothesis that she is interested in a career in transactional law or securities law, given her choice of reading material. It's also a given that she's not easily finding a job, the market being what it is.
I make my living working with law firms. I know hundreds of them. In fact, in three days, I'm giving a talk at a partner's retreat for a firm that describes itself as "[R]esults-based counsel for financial institutions and funds. Innovative securities regulation and enforcement solutions", among other things. I would have been happy to connect her up with some of my clients. I could, and would, have really been an asset to her. But she didn't ask.
I am also, obviously, something of an expert in business development for attorneys. I can almost guarantee that coming straight out of law school, she knows nothing about this, nor does she understand how important it is to her career. If we had talked, I had gotten her to understand how absolutely critical it was to her career, and she had been sharp enough to start developing business her first day on the job, it would have been a major competitive advantage. But I didn't, because she didn't ask.
I also know a lot about San Francisco and the Bay Area. And I knew, for example, that the Bay Bridge was completely shut down this weekend for a massive seismic retrofit, which could have affected her weekend plans to go to Napa. But she didn't ask.
In other words, she unknowingly, and permanently, forfeited a lot of information and opportunities because she didn't even attempt to network in the most ideal situation conceivable. I don't think this was some kind of deliberate slight -- I think she just didn't know any better. Too bad.