When we first met with you during orientation, we talked briefly about social media. Of course we make the obligatory plea for you to make sure it is free of all your questionable college adventures, and that you must assume anything out there in cyberspace is something employers will see. What you might have forgotten, however, is how we didn’t just leave it at that. We encouraged you to be active on social media and use it to your advantage. And while that meeting doesn’t give us the time to go into that in more detail, I wanted to take some time here to give you some thoughts.
I’ve heard students over the years say they’re going to stay off social media, or simply use it anonymously with their friends. But in today’s social media climate, not having a presence among at least one of the major social networks could be a potential liability to you as a job candidate. It raises questions like “who doesn’t have a Facebook account,” or “why does nothing come up when I google their name?” You don’t want that. You don’t have to be everywhere, but my advice is to pick a platform or two that you want to start building your professional reputation on, and invest some time in it.
Let’s start with LinkedIn. As of Q3 in 2016, LinkedIn had 467 million members. Let that number sink in for a minute. That makes it the third largest social network behind Facebook (1.86B users) and Instagram (600M users). More important for our purposes is that it is a social network built to serve and connect professionals (of which you are now one!). And its roots (and still a large part of its business) is to be a place for people to find jobs.
I just pulled up five random 1L students and searched them on LinkedIn; only one had an account. Now, five isn’t a large enough sample size to mean anything (i.e. the other 145 of you might all have LinkedIn accounts), but my guess is there are plenty of you who do not have an account set up. To you I say take a couple of hours one day and set it up (and if you need help please come and see me!). We’ll talk more about how to engage on LinkedIn next week.
Twitter is another platform that skews professional, and is an excellent place for you to really start connecting with people inside the legal industry. Many attorneys have Twitter accounts and post updates about new case law coming out or analysis of how a proposed law might impact their practice area. Follow these people and Like and Retweet them! This is a great way to start a conversation and begin engaging with potential employers or people who could refer you to an employer.
And don’t forget about Twitter’s search functionality. I did a search for “Houston family law,” and here is one of the first tweets I came across:
Houston Based Family Law Firm Fullenweider Wilhite Expands Into Austin, TX – Benzinga https://t.co/T1QwLgi4v2
— Evan J. Balmer, Esq. (@CityDivorces) January 22, 2017
There’s a lot to be gained in that tweet! You get some industry news on a firm that is growing, and someone that you might want to follow (though he is in New York!). It’s true that Twitter has had troubles in recent years, and who knows whether it will be worth your time 24 months from now. But for now, it is still a great place to engage with people in the industry and build relationships.
I’m going to do a part two on this post next week because I have more thoughts on these and other platforms you can take advantage of during your law school years, so stay tuned!