Networking 101

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

To me, networking initially felt a bit like asking a boy on a date, except that I knew I had nothing of substance to offer.  The initial e-mail was always a little nerve-racking.  "Hi! You don't know me, and you're incredibly busy, but could you take some time out of your day to have the same conversation I've had thirty times this month about the legal market in x city."  

Sometimes the person I e-mailed completely ignored my e-mail.  But, just like dating, I eventually found enough contacts that I landed my first job.  And my second job.  A few years later, I finally feel like I have a tiny bit to offer some contacts.  I love taking time to meet with younger attorneys or law students.  After a few years of making small efforts over time, I have a reputation of being an excellent networker.  I've managed to find people jobs.

So, how did I go from awkward to awesome?  Painfully, slowly, and steadily.  The first step for me was to identify a specific goal.  For me, my goal was a job in the legal profession in a particular city.  The next thing I did was create a list of small steps.  I was careful not to start trying to complete the steps until I had a big picture plan.  I knew I could modify the plan as time went on -- and I always did modify the plan -- but it's helpful to have a plan start to finish for what I could do to accomplish my goals.

If you're in school, ask an advisor what steps you need to take.  If you're in a job and have a particular goal, identify someone who has successfully achieved that goal and ask them what it took to get there.  Ask them who they met and how they went about doing it.  For some things, you can network simply, by grabbing coffee.  For others, you'll need to network in a more sustained manner, by joining an organization or a group that meets at regular intervals.  All of this depends on your goals, but it always begins with three steps:

1. Identify who you need to know
For career hunting in the legal profession, I knew I'd need to research the major players in a particular city.  I could identify those players by looking at local legal publications, researching firms, and talking with law school alumni in the area.  If you can't figure this out, find someone peripherally related enough that you can ask.

2. Meet the people you need to know
After identifying who I needed to know, I knew I'd need to decide how to get to know those people.  Would I start by looking for alumni connections or common interests?  Was I gusty enough to master the cold e-mail?  (The answer to this should be yes, you never know what will happen and a non-response just does not matter.)  Was there an event I could attend where I would likely meet the person?  

3. Maintain a relationship with the people you met
Maintaining a relationship with people you met in order to network is by far the most difficult aspect of networking.  I was always advised to try to maintain relationships by e-mailing people I met about news articles that reminded me of them.  You might be able to do this by reading trade publications, but I found it incredibly difficult.  My best advice is to become involved in something that a lot of the people you've met attend.  In the legal profession this is easy.  Between bar associations and American Inns of Court groups there are numerous groups attorneys regularly attend.  Figuring out what people attend, joining, and seeing people regularly helped me more than anything because I never felt forced to say something incredibly impressive on any one particular occasion.

Once you've laid out your plan for achieving these steps, feel free to start slowly.  Set a goal of researching for a particular amount of time each week, and then let it go.  Send one scary outreach e-mail every week, and then let it go.  Slowly but surely, you'll be on your way to developing a network.

Back to the Future Day

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

It's October 21, 2015, Back to the Future Day.  Apparently plenty of things are pretty accurate, including the fact that the Cubs are still in the playoffs.  Yet, it doesn't feel as futuristic as many hoped.  Time is a funny thing.  Every time I think some date or occasion is so far off that it will never occur, it comes without fail.  And it feels sooner than I thought.  My wedding.  Law school graduation.  The end of Adam's chemotherapy.  All of those days came.  And even if I had been waiting for them desperately, looking back they still arrived more quickly than I expected.  Life is short.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

As I pulled into the driveway, tired from the gym, A crouched into position, waiting behind the door.  When I opened it, he held a bouquet of roses under my nose.  This, even though all morning I felt my emotions crusading out of my control.  Teary-eyed, I had broken down because I didn't know what to eat for breakfast.  Feeling a rush of hormones, I crumpled into A's arms and told him I didn't know what was going on or how to control it, but I was feeling everything really intensely.  He gave me a hug and said it would all be okay.  Of course it was.

"I'll pick you up when you're getting down.
And out of all these things I've done, I think I love you better now."

Apple pie

Thursday, August 20, 2015

August in America is apple pie.  Something about the simplicity of an apple pie makes it even more perfect.  Adam and I met online.  My online dating profile was simple.  I wrote that I loved free spirits, apple pie and America.  The occasional cartwheel.  Five years later my life has changed in more ways than I could have imagined, but I still love free spirits, apple pie and America.

I'm not great at lots of cooking, but I have mastered a solid apple pie.  Here's my straight-forward approach.

PREHEAT: 425 degrees F.

- I cheated for the bottom crust with a Pillsbury crust.
- For the top, I first got a little bowl and dropped in a few ice cubes and some water.
- Next, in a separate bowl, I combined 2 1/2 cups of flour with one teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of sugar.  I then added two sticks of butter and used a handmixer to mix the dough.
- I slowly added poured in small amounts of water (about a tablespoon at a time) and worked the dough between my fingers until I had enough water to get the dough to stick.  I then left the dough in the fridge for an hour to cool.
- To roll the dough into strips (or a regular crust), I clean my countertop like crazy, dry the countertop, and then cover a workspace with flour and coat a rolling pin with flour.  Keeping flour on the workspace and the rolling pin as well as keeping the dough cool makes it easy to roll out.  I cut my strips and put the rest of the dough in the fridge.

- I run six apples through an apple peeling device.  My device is like this one, although I'm not actually sure where mine was purchased since it was given to me as a gift.  The apple peeling machine peels, cores and slices the apple.  It's fantastic and cuts the time it takes to make a pie down considerably.  After I take the apple from the machine, I cut the apples the other direction a few more times and then set them in a bowl filled with water and lemon (the lemon keeps the apples from browning).
- I set the apples in the bottom pie crust and then add:
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2T flour
- 1T cinnamon
-1t nutmeg
-1t cloves
-A few squirts of lemon juice
-I mix those ingredients together a bit for the filling.

-I take the strips of top dough and stretch them across the pie.
- Then, I take aluminum foil and crease it around the edges of the pie to keep the edges from burning.

BAKE: 40-45 minutes.

A design element

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Late on a work night, A was playing videogames and I probably should have been in bed when I realized from the top of our third floor that our stairs created a beautiful framing pattern.  I'd never seen our stairs as beautiful before (although I love dropping recycling, trash, or anything that needs to go out straight down the cutout rather than taking it all the way downstairs).  Look at this pattern.  These stairs are fantastic.

And then there is A.  Although he was deep into a videogame when I rushed downstairs with urgency, (because finding out how these stairs would look framing a portrait was urgent) he took a break and agreed to sit in the stairwell.  Now cross your arms.  Perfect.  Try smiling.  No.  Thank you dear.  There are few things A hates more than having his picture taken.  When an idea sparks late at night and he's the only one around, he indulges me without hesitation.  He has been so supportive of my blossoming interest in photography.  Absurdly supportive.  When I couldn't edit photos on my old laptop because the computer's memory couldn't keep up, he selflessly (we're not in the position where we can just go around buying computers) suggested we buy what is basically a frivolous computer so I could edit.  "You're laptop's going to break soon anyway."  (Maybe).  This, even though photography is just a hobby and I'm terrible at it.  None of that seemed to matter.  He knows that trying makes me happy.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Variety is the spice of life.  Yesterday, during a 90s throwback weekend, I heard the Spice Girls on the radio.  Last night we went to a party centered around nuclear tacos.  And, although fall is still far away, in my head I'm already dreaming about pumpkin spiced lattes and sweaters.  We're a long way from the silk road where traders used to transport cinnamon, pepper, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg from Indonesia to the rest of the world, but we do focus on spice occasionally.

My favorite is cinnamon, probably because Adam's sober cancer doctor in Nebraska seemed intrigued by its potential health benefits.  It doesn't hurt that it's easy to throw lots of cinnamon into almost anything.  I love to use our juicer to make almond butter from scratch, swirling in as much cinnamon as the butter will hold--nutmeg and a touch of brown sugar for good measure.  Cinnamon is also fantastic in our home-made iced tea.  Iced tea is so easy to make during the dog days of summer.  If you've never done it, get a huge plastic container, fill it with water, set in some tea bags (and this is where I love to add cinnamon or mint) and then let it sit in the sun.  After a few hours, bring it in and put it in the fridge.

The spice containers pictured here are round magnetic containers that hang above our stovetop.  They add a beautiful pattern and texture to our kitchen.  Real #everyday beauty.

Switching it up

I've done some reflection and sitting, trying to figure out why this blog wasn't entirely satisfying to write.  I realized that recitations about my daily life, while sometimes interesting, aren't really challenging or that interesting to anybody.  Plus, I'm not entirely sure what the point is in sitting down and focusing on them.  Sometimes, something happens that reveals the light and beautiful nature of the world, and those experiences are fun to write about it.  And, in all seriousness, sometimes a great weekend of meal preparation lends itself to lots of insights and it is something beautiful.

What I want to do from here on out is just focus on the everyday beauty around me and reflect that back for myself (and anyone else interested) here.  The goal of the exercise is to focus more of different types of everyday beauty in the process.  Occasionally, I'll write about my life cast in these terms.