In school, it can be most helpful to talk with –and network with– those who are just a year or two ahead of you in school. For juniors or seniors in college, and for 2L and 3L law students, talking to recent graduates can give you a leg up on what to expect, and how best to prepare for success. If someone survived freshman year successfully, they may have great advice for you who are now in your first year.
Why? There’s a good chance, you are not the first person to struggle with whatever challenges you are currently facing. And, a peer who is just a slight bit ahead of you may seem more credible than a professor who may have been where you are decades prior. (I happen to believe that with age comes wisdom and thus seeking advice from those who are much older can be tremendously valuable. But I do understand that many of my students find recent graduates particularly credible.)
I sponsor an Alumni Speaker Series in a number of my classes, hosting recent graduates to come back and share their bar exam and professional challenges, and wisdom. Their stories help current students see what troubles may be lurking and provides advice on how to avoid the pitfalls and potholes in the road just ahead.
Recent graduates empower current students to believe that they too can navigate the rough waters and prevail.
If your have formal opportunities to meet and network with recent graduates seize them. Ask questions! Make your own plans based on what you hear worked and did not work for others. Do adjust the advice of others to fit your own needs. (“One size does not fit all” in life, law, or college.) But, do listen. Why repeat mistakes that just spending a few minutes hearing someone else might help you avoid?
If there are no formal opportunities, go on your own and seek out recent graduates or students in classes ahead of you. Ask your ASP faculty or your favorite professor or Dean for the names of recent graduates they would recommend you talk with. Ask a former leader of an organization you belong to, to sit and share his/her experiences. Talk with someone who has just started working in a field that interests you.
And, be sure to send a Thank You after meeting with someone. You will be surprised at how your networking opportunities expand your current successes and your potential for success in the future!