Don’t Make This Networking Mistake

kaffee-1-1432310-mWe have talked a lot on this blog and on the Law School Toolbox about how to network. We encourage law students, recent grads, and lawyers to reach out to us and to others whom they think would be helpful. For instance, schedule a time to get coffee. Usually, these coffee dates are great. A personal connection is made, which is likely followed by an offer to help out these law students, recent grads, and lawyers with what they have going on.

But, sometimes, a networker will make a terrible networking mistake. So terrible that I wanted to write about it here so you can avoid making this mistake yourself.

Don’t Ever Stand Up Someone for a Coffee Date

Yup, this happened to me yesterday. I got stood up by a law student. I had driven across town and shown up at the coffee shop where we had agreed to meet. When the law student didn’t show up, I emailed him (15 minutes after the time we had scheduled) and asked if we were still meeting (he hadn’t given me his phone number prior to the meeting). It has been now about 24 hours since the scheduled meeting time and I still have not heard from him. He has gone dark. No response whatsoever.

Do You Think This Is a Good Networking Strategy?

I hope not! This is a terrible networking strategy. Not only did I waste time in my busy schedule but this person looked unprofessional by not following up with me after the fact. Sure, things happen but you never should go dark, never should just blow someone off, someone who is doing you a favor, and then ignore him or her. Now, let’s assume at some point this student does contact me again. Do you think I will take time out of my schedule, drive across town, and meet him again? It is highly unlikely. Because he has shown me how he feels about the value of my time, I don’t feel that it is necessary to do a favor for him again.

Sure, Things Happen, But That’s Not an Excuse To Be Rude

I know, things happen. You get stuck in traffic, your cell phone dies, your cat needs to go to an emergency vet appointment. When these things happen, you want to make sure, however, that you send a note as soon as possible to the person you are planning on meeting and apologize for the inconvenience and politely ask to reschedule. Sometimes, things happen in life that prevent us from being where we need to be. But that doesn’t give anyone an excuse to be rude (if it can be helped at all). Most people are human and will accept an apology. But what most people will not accept is rudeness. Remember the legal community can be a small one. You don’t want to get a reputation for being a flake and not following up with people!

Handy Tips for Preventing Such a Scenario from Happening

Here are a few best practices to prevent this sort of thing from happening.

  • The day before the meeting, email your networking contact to confirm. The person who has asked for the networking meeting should be the one to confirm. Just send a quick email so there is no confusion over time and location. Also, then if anyone needs to reschedule, it can be done ahead of time. Here is an example:

Hi Lee:

I am looking forward to coffee with you to chat about your experiences starting your own business. Does 2:00 p.m. tomorrow, April 15, at Fourbarrel Cafe on Valencia Street still work for you? My cell phone is XXX-XXX-XXXX if you need to reach me.

 Best, Law Student

  • It is okay to reschedule, but give as much notice as possible and apologize. Again, folks understand that stuff comes up. But be thoughtful in your email to avoid frustration. Remember busy people often don’t mind rescheduling as long as it isn’t done at the last minute. Here is an example of that email:

Hi Lee:

I have been looking forward to having coffee this week, but unfortunately an unavoidable conflict has come up. Would it be possible to reschedule for next week at the same time and place? April 22 at 2:00 p.m. at Fourbarrel Cafe on Valencia Street? If not, is there another convenient time for you?

Again, I apologize for any inconvenience and I appreciate your understanding.

Thank you, Law Student

Cell phone: XXX-XXX-XXXX

  • If the unthinkable happens and you stand someone up, send him or her an apology email as soon as the mistake is realized. Again, everyone makes mistakes, but not proactively acknowledging the mistake makes you look bad.

Hi Lee:

I feel just terrible that I missed our coffee appointment this afternoon. This was a scheduling mistake on my part and it really is inexcusable. I hope you weren’t too inconvenienced and I would like to reschedule with you, if at all possible, for a time that would work best for you. Again, I am terribly sorry.

Sincerely, Law Student

Cell phone: XXX-XXX-XXXX

Hopefully, you are careful with your schedule and never have to send such an email. But although the contact may not want to meet with you going forward, at least you have apologized and asked for forgiveness and that’s better than doing nothing.

The bottom line is networking is critically important. Moreover, it is your responsibility to make sure to present yourself in a professional and considerate way during the networking process. A bad impression won’t help your career, and it may make your networking contact angry!

Got creative ideas for legal networking? Leave them in the comments!

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