Networking with Older Women

how to network with older womenReader R has a question that goes pretty well with our discussion of networking with older men — how to network with older women. Here’s the question:

I’m a 24 year old summer clerk with a public defender’s office. I got the gig by networking through my friends; specifically, by getting to know their mothers and fathers who work in the legal field. Now, however, I’ve gotten to become friends with my friends’ parents and their colleagues, who are in their 40’s and 50’s. Do you have tips on navigating the waters of friendship with women who are quite literally old enough to be my mother? I’m frequently invited to lunches and happy hours with them and I always accept the offers and enjoy my time, but I’m curious as to what tone I should be striking. They always address me and treat me as a colleague, and I’m frequently told I act like I’m 30 (in a good way), but I want to keep fostering these friendships in an appropriate way.

It sounds to me like you’re doing a great job and don’t really need any advice! For my $.02, here are some thoughts:

  • It’s probably a good idea to be clear with yourself about what your goal is — it’s to learn from these women, not to enjoy the mozzarella sticks at the bar. Your goal is to get on their radar as someone who they would recommend for a new hire, and possibly even consider you as a mentee.
  • To that end: during this summer, try to listen more than you speak. The concerns these women face now will probably be struggles you’ll face in your own career at some point. Listen to the advice, and ask questions where you can.
  • It’s fine to talk about yourself if you’re asked, but within limits. Don’t overstep by talking too much about yourself — not everyone at the gathering will be thrilled to hear the latest drama that occurred between your boyfriend, roommate, or mother, or your 5-minute take on the new restaurant or movie.
  • Watch your table manners when you’re out, and don’t drink to excess.  (And this is a minor note, primarily because I couldn’t think of anything else to use to illustrate the post, but it probably isn’t the best idea to order “young” drinks like Midori Sours if you’re out with older friends — if you can order what they’re having.  Pictured: Midori Sour, originally uploaded to Flickr by Nicole Lee.)
  • Start building your contact files. This sounds a little creepy, but stick with me because I got this tip from some movie (which escapes me now), but if it’s from a movie it must be the proper way of business, right? In any event, what I’ve done — primarily with older people — was to keep written notes on our conversations. If they told me how they had gotten to where they were (a fairly typical question I’ve asked), I would briefly note the progression so I didn’t have to ask again the next time I met with him or her. It might look like this in my notes, which I would usually keep with their contact information:

from SmallTown, OH –> [Ivy League schools]–> worked as a ____ at [large nonprofit]–> [firm] –> inhouse for [large nonprofit]–> inhouse for [giant company]–> current position at [small nonprofit]

I’d also keep track of their partner’s name, as well as any children that they mentioned and a few facts about them (“just bought house upstate; recently into spelunking”).

  • When you leave the internship, try to stay on their radar. With the example contact above, if I saw an interesting article that I didn’t think she’d have come across on spelunking, or something on one of the entities she had worked for, I would send it her way. Aim for one or two lunches or breakfasts a year to stay on their radar, as well — review your notes on them, see if there’s anything you want to ask them about that will further benefit your career (“So when you went from [firm] to [large nonprofit], how did that happen exactly? Who did you use for your references? Was it awkward to leave [firm]?”) as well as remembering the course of conversation (“so are you and X still spelunking upstate?”). Maybe I’m alone in that I have to keep track of things like this, but for friends you don’t see often it helps to have notes. Like I said, when I was younger this was primarily with older people who I only saw once or twice a year in a mentee capacity — now I keep notes on friends I haven’t seen in a long time, keeping track of what their partner’s name is; if they’re married, what date they were married; what their kid’s name is; when the kid was born, etc. (All of this was made easier by my Palm Pilot — I’m just recently upgrading to an Android phone, which is requiring some new contacts systems, but I’m sure I’ll get it sorted eventually.)

And I should probably note — to me this is just what a healthy networking relationship looks like (as opposed to one where you’re worried there’s some sex-related ulterior motive); there’s nothing specific here for older women.

Readers, what’s your advice for networking?  Would you give Reader R any additional advice, or different advice?

Comments

  1. AlexandraB :

    I am 41, but went to school later in life. My summer intern assumed I had several kids and owned a home. (I don’t!) She also called me, ma’am. Ick!

    The take home?

    Don’t make assumptions about the lives/experiences of people unless you know them. Commenting to a 45 year old, “Did you take this job when your kids went off to college?” when that person never had kids, or has chosen to travel instead, can be very off-putting.

    Ask questions of the person, but don’t interrogate them. It feels forced and artificial to have someone who otherwise has nothing in common with try to act friendly only to ask exclusively “business networking” related questions.

    If you are genuinely interested in these “older” women, chat about a wide variety of things, not just their work lives.

    • Yikes, 45 years old is not old enough to have college-age children!

      Remember when you were 7 and the fifth-graders seemed like the oldest people in the whole wide world? I guess that’s how 22 year olds feel about us…

      • Yes, Eponine, it certainly is……I just turned 50 and my daughter has been out of college and working in finance for 2 years now!

        • Then you got started a lot younger than I did!

        • Funny, when I turn 50, my daughter will still be in elementary school. (I think we’ll be ok with that, though.)

          • I was 26 when she was born – which, while I didn’t realize it at the time (I was actually in grad school when she was born), worked out really well for me – I didn’t have the job responsibilities I later had and so work/family balance was “easier” for me at that point. Another reason it’s worked out well that I had my daughter young is that now I’m dealing with significant elder parent issues on top of a challenging consulting practice. Since my Mom was older when she had me (35), all that comes home to roost at an earlier time than many of my peers whose parents are in their 70’s and still healthy. I can’t imagine having young kids and old parents to worry about simultaneously……but that’s what being the “sandwich generation” is all about.

        • I am a law school graduate, and my Mom is 47! And I have an older (and younger) sister! Definitely old enough to have college aged kids..

      • Yes, I am almost that old, but do not have children. I somtimes feel OLD but know I am still capable of having children. I do need to get MARRIED first, though and that is the challenge.

      • I’m a first year associate and my mom just turned 45 today.

      • Sure it is. I’m 46 and have two children heading to college this fall.

        And the concept of being thought of as “an older woman” is both insulting and mind-boggling.

    • counselorcap :

      I remember an incredibly obnoxious New York Times piece in which a writer (I believe it was Judith Warner) fretfully imagined law firms and workplaces empty of women who had quit to raise families.

      It never seemed to occurred to her that not all women are married or have children.

    • This is all good advice, but I’d be far less cautious if I were you.

      I’m 46 and one of the more senior people in my office. I would say that if I’ve invited you to happy hour more than once, it’s because I think you’re a fun addition to the group.

      You don’t have to strike any particular tone. In fact, being too formal would imply to me you were only interested in networking with me and not friendship. It might offend me that you only saw me that way.

      But friendships are not less important than networking connections. In fact, I’d say they’re more important. People try hard to get their friends introductions and jobs, much harder than they would for someone they’ve only met over an all-business networking lunch.

      So to the original poster, I would go ahead and make friends with this group of women, and don’t worry about the tone. Again, they wouldn’t have invited you more than once if they didn’t like you on a personal level.

    • I’ll be 38 when my daughter goes to college! And hopefully a 2nd year associate myself.

      • rrrrgg. That was supposed to reply to Eponine

      • microentrepreneur :

        I’ll take a contrary view, as a woman who’s noticed that there are younger women who assume that anyone who’s of their mother’s generation is just like their mother. . .Look for someone who likes you as a person and wants to mentor you. As a mentor, I resonate with anyone who is enthusiastic, authentic, and willing to listen. The energy and excitement they bring to a mentoring relationship is wonderfully encouraging and energizing. The best mentoring relationships run both ways. Keep that in mind, as you look for older women as mentors–you should like them, and they should make it clear that they like you too. In the best and most positive of ways.

  2. Related threadjack:

    Any advice on networking during a personally difficult time? My family is currently going though a a crisis. Yet life goes on – I’m a rising 3L and will be working hard on finding a job this fall, including networking with people I’ve worked with before and during law school. With new people, it’s easy to just not say anything. But it feels very odd to not mention anything in response to inquiries about what’s going on with me – when this crisis has been consuming 80% of my life for several months. But I don’t want to burden the relationship with unnecessary personal details, etc. What would you do?

    • I would not mention it. It’s rarely appropriate, especially if you have just met someone and it can also be awkward if you bring it up out of the blue. I would stick to discussing gradutation, what you hope to be doing/have done, studying for the bar, etc. If your crisis bears any relevance to something you are doing/expected to do, then it may be appropriate to bring it up. For instance, a good friend in law school had to take care of a family member with cancer. As I recall, she went to meet with every professor she had and explained the situation and that she may have to sometimes leave class early to make hospital appointments. But aside from someone needing to know the situation, I would keep the crisis to myself, and look for support from friends.

      That said, my sympathies are with you, whatever it is you are going through. I wish you strength and luck getting through it all.

    • For people you already know – if they ask you how you’re doing, there’s no reason not to be honest. Be concise – “oh, I’m well, but my father has been ill and that’s difficult for my family.” However, if you’re going to get upset and not be able to control your emotions, then you should consider not mentioning it. Also, be aware that some people ask how you’re doing because they genuinely care, and others expect a pat “fine, thanks, and you?” and that’s it. For the latter type, skip the honesty.

      For people you’ve just met – I wouldn’t bring it up unless it becomes directly relevant. Oversharing can make situations become very awkward.

    • If you just met them or they haven’t asked, don’t mention it. If you have ever discussed your family with the people that you know, and they ask, you can briefly mention it, but don’t go into much detail. My parents had to file for bankruptcy and they are losing their house in foreclosure. If people ask about them, depending on the circumstances, I might mention that the economy has hit them hard, but that they are in good health. It is tempting to overshare, but do your best to only briefly respond to their questions before changing the subject.

    • My foreign-born mother always said that Americans smile even when their world is falling apart. In networking situations, if somebody doesn’t know about your difficulties, don’t share. It will just make it awkward for everyone involved. That being said, if you’re going through something so intense, it’s ok to give yourself a break and just stay home.

    • Hi.
      I had a *somewhat* similar experience, in that I started work at a new place, while going through a major crisis at home.
      I’m pretty open about things generally, so informed all the relevant people of what was going on. I asked a senior who was my *mentor* how much leverage I was likely to be allowed, and the reply was that I could request flexi hours / work from home at a pinch.
      I rarely needed the time away from work, but I must have looked pretty exhausted some of the time.
      People were generally very *kind*, and inquired after my well-being, and how things were going etc etc, but here’s the catch; anytime I slipped up, made a simple mistake, it was assumed to be all down to the fact that I was *struggling* through work.
      I really felt that some people were using it against me in a disparaging way (intentionally or unintentionally).
      I’m not sure I’ve really managed to convey what happened…
      Anyway, my advice to you is;
      tell only the people who 1) you can really trust, and 2) you really need to tell.
      I think pity drains respect in a way, or at least I thought it did in my personal experience.
      Sorry if this sounds rude or hurtful in any way – what I’m really trying to share with you is that whatever level of disclosure you go to can rarely be taken back.

  3. Such as thing as too many contacts? :

    “Aim for one or two lunches or breakfasts a year to stay on their radar.”

    I like this advice, but found that I’ve networked with so many people over the years that every year it gets harder to track and fit these types of check-ins in while still going out and networking with new people. Any recommendations for how to find a good balance?

    • on the same note, how about tips for, I don’t know, excuses for getting together? I feel weird about saying to someone who I haven’t spoken to for several months and was never really “close” with “Hey, let’s catch up and go to lunch!”

      (It could just be me, though.)

      • I feel the same way, and would appreciate any tips!

      • Diana Barry :

        Ditto. I am introverted and always feel like I am imposing on people to suggest lunch.

      • anonymous :

        Me, too.

        I also never go to alumni events. I went to the kind of school where people want to know what’s on your resume before deciding whether to talk to you, or whether it will be 3-second flash of a smile or a 10-minute conversation.

        • same here. I avoid alumni events like the plague, because everybody keeps asking very inquisitive questions. But I am getting in peace with this. I will probably start attending events in the coming few months.

          • anonymous :

            Good for you. I avoid social situations unless I’m reasonably sure I’ll have a good time or it would materially helpful to me in some way. I figure that I’ll be in contact with the people I really like one way or another.

            Clearly do not have the networking gene.

      • I thought it would be weird too, but recently I’ve reached out to several people just to say, “Hey, I haven’t talked with you in a while and I’m interested in finding out what you’re up to lately. Do you have time for lunch?” People sometimes seem surprised but nobody has turned me down yet.

      • Fitting in regular check-ins .. I don’t think it’s necessary to check-in with a ton of people throughout the year, unless you’re in sales.

        For people that you don’t have a pressing/clear/near-term need to network with, I think a once/year check in at the holidays is perfect. A brief but not obviously mass-produced email, or an agnostic greeting card (“Peace on Earth” “Best wishes for 2012″) with a short handwritten note, is IMO a great way to express general good wishes to people without seeming awkward. I get and send a lot of these and find them a great way to stay in loose touch. It’ll take you lots of time to do this, come November, but worth the effort.

        For people you do want to meet up with, but aren’t that close to: I like someone’s suggestion above about emailing an occasional article they might be interested in (done with appropriate thought, don’t send useless rehash articles), with the note that says you’d like to hear their thoughts on it, or else say you’d like to ask someone for advice on X, get their thoughts on issue/idea X. It comes across as flattering and gives your meeting a focal point to start off with.

        You may not think you want or need their opinion on anything, but I do think you have to come up with something … otherwise it’s obvious that you’re really just meeting to check it off your list, and potentially wasting the other person’s time.

    • Last week I talked with an acquaintance I hadn’t talked with in about a year. We said the obligatory “we should get together sometime!” that’s half-hearted. However, we discussed planning a simple happy hour and inviting people we both know who we don’t see much. Perhaps this could help you and Lyssa. If there are a few people you know from a summer internship, law school or an organization and you’ve let what feels like too much time get away, plan a happy hour and invite them to stop by. If one person comes, that’s OK. If five do, even better. It’s a good way for all of you to stay in touch since everyone is busy. Also, don’t assume that because someone hasn’t invited you to lunch or dinner, she’s forgotten you. I think we all get swept up in our day-to-day drama. If you plan something convenient and simple, I bet you’ll be surprised how many will come.

    • You can also ping people in less obtrusive ways. E-mailing them articles you think they might find interesting, for example.

    • Little Lurker :

      You know what’s a great way to start conversations with a group of people you haven’t seen or talked to in a really long time? The ice-breaker “Two truths and a lie.”

      It’s normally used in orientation settings, but I think it’s actually more fun at reunions (whether officially organized or just as a happy hour). The people who knew you way back when get three sound bites about you: two true items and one false item. The game works best if you limit each item to one-two sentences, and if you’re really savvy, you can trip up all those old impressions of you! (Plus it gives you an idea what to follow-up on in later convos)

      Just be careful what you choose about yourself and how you respond to others’ statements. Feelings can get hurt easily, but if everyone’s mature about it, it can be really, really fun.

      • counselorcap :

        Example?

        • “I was a Sears catalog model as a child, I once babysat Tom Hanks’ kids, I’ve gone bungee jumping on three continents.” Identify the lie. These are typically lighthearted, fun facts.

        • What it says on the tin – each person makes three statements about themself, where two are true and one is a lie. The others in the group have to guess which one is a lie.

          Example:
          1) I have been skydiving 3 times.
          2) I lived in India during primary school.
          3) I have a tattoo that spans my entire back.

          “Guess what! Number 2 is the lie – I actually lived in Burma. But yes, I really have a huge tattoo – it is a detailed T-Rex from Jurassic Park standing on a surfboard and walking a dog while trying to eat an ice pop with its tiny little arms.” You can learn all sorts of things about people with this game.

      • With all respect, I dislike this kind of thing in a professional setting. To me, it feels forced and gimmicky and like something you’d do at camp.

  4. I hate to threadjack this really interesting topic with something so silly, but has anyone tried canned beets? I’ve been obsessing about beets recently and would really like to put them in my quinoa, salads, etc., but roasting them yourself takes so long. Would the canned ones taste okay if they were mixed in with other veggies?

    • I love all beets. Canned beets (just canned, not the ones that are pickled and canned) are decent enough, in my opinion, but not in the same ballpark as fresh roasted ones. If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, they sell packages of pre-cooked beets that aren’t canned, but are rather kind of shrinkwrapped, in the refrigerator section, and these are better.

      • A lot of supermarkets have these — they are baby beets. Not always refreigerated. Very delicious. Highly recommend.

        Also, keep in mind, beets keep a long time. You can roast a big batch on the weekend and it will keep 7-10 days in the fridge, especially if you place them in a nice air tight container.

        I am not a fan of canned beets.

    • another anon :

      I haven’t had the canned ones, but Alton Brown has a great pickled beets recipe. Yes, it does require roasting them yourself, but since you then pickle them they last for quite a while so you can do a bunch at one time. Just google “Alton brown pickled beets.”

    • This threadjack is an example of why I love corporette… from networking to beets in 0.3 seconds. I love the diversity of topics here and they are all important no matter how “silly”.

      Unfortunately, I can’t stand beets so I don’t have any tips for you.

    • Raw beets are awesome

    • I’ll be in the minority and say I do like canned beets. Julienned canned beets are a staple at salad bars and I quite like what they add to my boring lunchtime salads – not just the fun way that they turn my salad dressing pink, but also the slightly sweet note they add.

    • They’re not anywhere near as good as roasted beets, but I think they’re pretty good. And grated raw beets are really good on salads, too.

    • Not a huge fan of canned beets, but can I make a plug for pickled beets? Yum. I have some British relatives and pickled beets are a staple for them; I never would have thought to try them otherwise.

  5. Just please, please don’t call your female mentor your “work mom” to her face. A colleague did this to our mutual female mentor, and it made me embarrassed to be in the same demographic.

    • My boss jokingly refers to my male and female colleague who share an office as each other’s work husband and work wife. It’s so awkward. Both are married (to other people).

      • At my law school graduation, there was a woman next to me in line who wanted to introduce her parents to her “law school husband.” It was definitely awkward, he didn’t appreciate the term, and neither did his real wife.

    • I hear that used ALL THE TIME. My husband’s work jokes about his “work wife” – aka female field work partner. She finds the term demeaning but his coworkers don’t care. My male colleague referred to me as his “work little sister.” I guess that is not so bad but still just a bit odd.

      I was wondering where the “work wife” “work husband” trend started. Was it a movie or something?

    • My dad said something along those lines to a woman I work with…it was MORTIFYING. Especially b/c I was 32 at the time and she’s only in her 40s.

  6. anonymous :

    As one of those older women, my reaction is that Kat is giving good advice. Only I wouldn’t hesitate to order the latest drink – after all, at least some of us old fogies like to learn about what’s trendy. But then, I also wouldn’t mind being called someone’s “work mom” and think that I once referred to myself as something like that when talking to one of the young’uns with whom I work.

    • counselorcap :

      It depends on the woman. I’m single and have no children. I can certainly be helpful and friendly, but I don’t like the assumption that kids are automatically part of what makes a woman caring.

      Sometimes there’s a whiff of condescension in the epithet. I don’t want to be your mom.

      I’m also not your Big Sis. :-)

    • I’m 46, but would cringe at being called anyone’s work mom. My kids are 8 and 10. I’m still cleaning up vomit. Do you really want me to view you that way?

  7. Little Lurker :

    Super interested in this topic and will be checking back throughout the day for sure, but here, have a threadjack:

    I know lace in the workplace is generally a no-no, but I wanted to run this specific garment by the hivemind:

    http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/halogen-lace-trim-tank/3022451?origin=category

    I’m trying to flesh out my layering-tops wardrobe, as I really hate (and hate how I look in) button-downs. I am bustier than I used to be, although not so much that I need to constantly downplay it. Still, my chest isn’t small.

    Is this too much for a business-casual work environment? Does color matter? I’m in the Midwest, and wondering if I’m overthinking this.

  8. Anon – I’m 54. I love being called people’s “Twitter mom.” I liked being a biological mom, I like being an institutional one too. I have to say, my friendships and networking with younger women gives me great joy. One of the best things about getting older is that you can really recognize talent. So many times now I’ve spotted a young woman, IRL or online, and thought to myself, “Hmm, that one’s going somewhere.” And I have been correct so often that I feel sort of as though I share in their successes.

    My primary piece of advice is not to be scared of us. We may have a lot of years, and some success, under our belts, but we’re still women who like to go out to a bar, laugh, tell stories, make fun of ourselves and the world. The more you connect to us in a genuine way, the better.

    If you can do the above, all the while indicating that you respect our experience and our time, I guarantee you’ve met someone who will help you when they can. Now, at the point where you ask for help, Do Not Do It Lightly. We’ve spent decades building a reputation and we take it really seriously. If you ask us for a favor, be prepared to follow up.

    • Completely agree with your comments Lisa. I’m 50, have been around the block in my career with several advancing positions in different parts of the country before starting my solo niche consulting practice. As someone who never had a person in my professional life I considered as a mentor until 2 years ago myself , I find immense joy in mentoring young women (and young men as well). As professional “of a certain age”, I feel we have a window not only into having been in their shoes (as a young professional, working parent, etc.), but also as the people they are likely to report to, be hired by, etc. – which can be really helpful as younger people are navigating the workplace.

    • skippy pea :

      As someone who is not in her twenties but does not feel “exxperienced” enough yet, I appreciate this sentiment. I love networking with women who have been around the block so to speak. But sometimes I do feel intimidated or judged/evaluated -maybe because most of this networking has happened with biglaw partners. Maybe because they are all not willing or excited to network “down” like you are.

    • Lisa, I completely agree with you about asking for a favor.

      A younger friend (or maybe he was just a netowrking connection!) who was job-seeking asked me for an introduction to one of my senior connections. I happily introduced the two. They had a really good conversation, during which my friend promised to get back in touch with a fleshed-out resume and a sample business plan.

      Then my friend completley dropped the ball and never followed up. Now every time I see my connection, he says something like, “What happened to your friend? He never followed up.”

      I can tell you I no longer consider the young guy a friend.

      • counselorcap :

        Maybe he felt intimidated? Or realized he would get nowhere? He should have sent an email, but it’s easy for me to judge someone else. :-)

        • No, I know the guy – we work in the same industry. He found what he felt was a better opportunity and didn’t have the grace to follow up with my connection to say so.

          My point was, he made me look bad, so you won’t see me connecting him again.

    • This! Lisa, you are always spot-on.

  9. Ballerina Girl :

    Any recommendations for how to keep track of these notes that Kat suggested electronically? Maybe a google doc? I wish I had a system for keeping track of friends/contacts contact info AND this sort of job/family/etc. stuff.

    • I just use the same tool that i use to keep track of my contact information. Mine happens to be outlook. There is a notes section in each of my contacts and i’ll throw in tidbits about bday days, anniv dates, kides names. etc. SO helpful.

      • Oh, and I also add gift ideas to my notes. Sometimes I’ll be one the phone with a really good client and they’ll mention something about their favorite scotch or whatever. While I’m on the phone I’ll open their contact and will type a quick note. I do this for my friends and family too. Then, when a gift-giving even rolls around, I’ll already have some ideas.

      • I do this, too, for work. Outlook is easiest since they vCards transfer easily from one Outlook acct to another, and Google Docs is blocked at both engr firms I’ve worked at. For work I typically shorthand a brief physical discription, summary on their interests and family as I learn it, and key career points or other work/field related topics we could reconnect on in the future.

        Funny enough, I learned this from Michael Scott of The Office; he wrote on the back of his Rolodex cards:

        Dwight Schrute: “[Holding a business card from Michael's Rolodex] And on the back, he wrote, “great salesman, better friend.” [shakes his head and shows the card] Tall and beats.”

    • counselorcap :

      Google Docs.

      Gmail (create a label called “Contacts” and email yourself a note when you meet someone and affix that label).

      Evernote.

      The “Notes” section of a cell phone app if there is one.

    • Biglaw Refugee :

      I have used Outlook – there is a section for general notes. When I left my BigLaw firm, I was able to get IT to export my Outlook contacts into an Excel spreadsheet, and I now have that at home. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get my new employer to put that info into my new contacts, so I plan to import the data into some other contact program on the web – hopefully one that I can sync with my iPod Touch. I haven’t figured out which program I’m going to use yet, but most contact applications should be able to export/import data – so as long as you use a program that lets you organize contact info, you should be able to transfer data between then.

  10. “It’s probably a good idea to be clear with yourself about what your goal is — it’s to learn from these women, not to enjoy the mozzarella sticks at the bar. Your goal is to get on their radar as someone who they would recommend for a new hire, and possibly even consider you as a mentee.”

    I think this is a terrible assumption. Nowhere in R’s email does she state that she wants to use these women solely for networking and mentoring. Instead she refers to them specifically as “friends.” There’s nothing wrong with looking for a mentor or a networking contact. But it should not be assumed that friendship is simply a front for an ulterior motive.

    Reader R – age difference is no impediment to friendship. If you like your colleagues and want to enjoy mozzarella sticks at the bar with them, go right ahead. Workplace friendships are important, and even once you’ve moved on from your current internship, you’ll have someone to meet for lunch or coffee and catch up. And if you need advice or professional assistance, your current colleagues will be happy to provide it as your friend.

    • I agree – I’m 29, my colleague whom I work closely with is 53, and she and I have traveled for work a lot together and just gotten to be close buddies. Although she’s great with advice and help in the workplace, my main “objective” when we hang out outside the workplace is to have a few drinks, watch a baseball game, and do whatever other normal things we do with other friends from work. You don’t have to network 24/7.

    • Oh, also, regarding Kat’s post? If you have to write down and file someone’s personal info so you remember who they are, you aren’t that person’s friend. And if someone doesn’t want to hear you talk about your family and interests, then that person isn’t your friend either.

      Usually I think Kat is spot on, but I’m pretty annoyed by her response to Reader R. There is a lot more to friendship – and, for that matter, to networking- than just using other people for your advantage.

      • I disagree, but perhaps it is because I think I suffer from memory loss more than the average person (and I’m in my 30s). I keep notes of my friends’ kids’ names and birthdays in my contacts notes section, and I will absolutely jot down something that, in my opinion, is something I’d like to remember but that I don’t trust my brain to remember. As for work contacts (and even work friends) v. life friends – to me, there is a difference.

        For professional contacts, I make notes on the back of business cards to remind me how I met the person and any notes about our conversations. I suppose so that is if later on I need to make that contact again, I can say, “we met through Susie at the Big Luncheon.” Also, I think it’s important to note that the response to Reader R is about how to relate to and stay in the loop with work colleagues/mentors/awesome women you admire and not how to make them “friends”.

      • I’m very surprised that you find Kat’s notetaking tip offensive.

        Not everyone can remember every tidbit they need to, which is why notes can be helpful. And, writing something down about a person doesn’t mean you don’t really care about them. It means that the thing you write down does matter to you… so much so that you want to be sure you don’t forget it.

        Because I hear a very dear friend of mine mention in passing that she would love a particular book in leather-bound form because and her bday is 10 months away and I type in my contacts so I don’t forget does not make me a bad friend. Because most of my friends have multiple children, the fact that I take the time to make a note of each of their kids’ bdays so I can pop a card and a treat in the mail for them (because kids love mail) does not make me a bad friend. Quite the opposite.

        I do the same thing with my collegues and clients (although not as personal) and it makes networking much easier and shows them that I care (because I do). If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t write it down and I’d just forget what they told me just like how I forget to by Wheat Thins at the market when it’s not on my list.

      • counselorcap :

        There’s nothing wrong with taking notes, but you have to be discreet about it. Otherwise, you could come off like the stereotypical businessman who has to put his anniversary date in the tickler file and ask his “girl” to pick up a gift for his wife, or Stephen Glass in “Broken Glass” (notes about a co-worker who liked Diet Coke)

        If you remember small details, people will think:

        1) You have a great memory;

        2) You care; or at least,

        3) You’re organized. :-)

      • I agree. I was really put off by Kat’s statement saying she’d file notes even for friends she hadn’t met in a while. IMO, then they are acquaintances, not friends.

        As someone in the mid 30s who’s been work friends with people +/- 10 yrs relative to my age, just be yourself. Treat them normally, regardless of age. Your sincerity will come through.

        People like to be with you for a reason, they’re not seeking mirror images of themselves (order whatever you like to drink – just keep it within bounds the same as you would for any work related thing)!

    • Re the notetaking… several of the biggest rainmaking partners in my firm keep detailed records re contacts. In part because over the course of 20-30 years, they’ve made so many. Also because part of successful rainmaking includes a lot of networking, and if you haven’t seen someone in a year or two (or even a few months), it can be hard to remember details.

      One partner used to have a notebook (it’s now a Word doc) with all his contacts. Every time he interacts with a contact unrelated to legal advice, he notes it. This helps him remember what they talked about (or whether he sent them an article or a note, etc.). It also is helpful because occasionally, he will peruse his contact list and realize that he needs to ping someone because he hasn’t had contact with them in awhile. Maybe it sounds creepy, but it apparently works.

      The advice our managing partner gave me is that the most successful rainmakers are those who are the most diligent about maintaining all their contacts through the years (and I’m talking 10-15-20-30 years of practice). That takes significant time and effort. Some, like the partner above, are more methodical than others.

      • Yes, but Reader R wasn’t asking about contacts. She was asking about friends. I’m sorry, but if you’re going to forget who someone is if you don’t keep notes on them in a file, you’re not their friend.

        • But remembering all the birthdays, likes, dislikes, food allergies, etc. of friends and their children is unfortunately too much detail for my feeble brain. Even my nephews’ birthdays are written down – if they weren’t I’d forget them.

        • Reader R was talking also about networking through these friends. I think Kat’s note-taking tip is well-founded for networking in general.

    • I agree with previous posters that if these women have asked you to more than one happy hour, they like your personality well enough to want to be friends and not simply business contacts.

      My mother made friends with a woman 25 years her senior when she was in college and our two families have been inseparable ever since. She is my mother’s best friend to this day and I can think of nothing more satisfying than having that sort of amazing friendship with a similarly smart and successful woman, like Reader R potentially has.

      Now. If I weren’t completely surrounded by male attorneys in this town, I might actually find that one day…

    • I also disagree. I found note-taking vital the first few weeks I start at a new office; you just meet too many people at once to remember all of them at once. I know I can barely remember someone’s name after the first introduction (though I rarely forget a face), and asking the same question(s) multiple times can come off as being indifferent or annoyingly forgetful.

      I do whole-heartedly agree with counselorcap about being discrete though! But then shouldn’t discretion always be practiced in work and life :)

      • counselorcap :

        Three cheers for discretion. :-)

        And maybe I’m getting old, or it’s a mental block, but I have a very good friend from college and I often can’t recall whether his partner’s name is spelled “Alison” or “Allison” (not her name, but the same principle). Is my other friend’s son’s name “Lawrence” or “Laurence,” “Lewis” or “Louis”?

        If it’s been a while I don’t remember. And since I know these people well, I’d feel really ridiculous misspelling the names of people who are close to them. Thank God for the search capabilities of Gmail. :-)

        Part of it is also collateral damage of being a lawyer for so many years. You get anal. But that’s not always a bad thing.

  11. anonymous :

    Need advice ladies. Your thoughts are appreciated.

    Background – I interviewed for an inhouse position about a month ago, I had my initial interview and a second callback. I was told that there is typically a long wait between the second callback and when successful candidates will be asked back for a third callback . This is because the company likes to interview all second round candidates first before determining who gets called back for a third interview. And, due to scheduling issues, it usually takes a while to complete the second round of interviews. I was not given a guide though as to how long I should expect to wait before hearing from them one way or the other.

    So it has been about a month now and I am really eager about this position. The recruiter I am working seems hesitant to call to find out where the company is in the interview process, even though I have suggested this. I am not sure why. However, at the second interview, I met with several of the company’s attorneys and they all gave me their office numbers and said to feel free to call them if I had any questions. And, I have a “liason” – one of the company’s attorneys assigned to assist me through the interview process. For example, I contacted the liason directly to give her my writing samples.

    Question – do you think it is a good idea for me to contact my “liason” directly or any of the other attorneys I met to ask where they are in the interview process and again express my interest in the position? Would it be poor form since a recruiter is involved? I do want them to know that I am excited about this position and that I am eager to hear from them, but I also do not want to pester or be too pushy. What do y’all think?

    • I think a month is long enough to wait before checking in, and unless your recruiter has given you an especially good reason, I’d go ahead and reach out to indicate your continued interest and try to gather some info on where the process stands. Communication need not go through the recruiter 100%.

  12. It’s warming up here and that Midori Sour looks sooo good. It’s been ages since I’ve had one but am now craving it!

  13. Another Perspective :

    This will sound like I am ancient, but I am in my 60s, so virtually all my associates and many of my partners are young enough to be my children – in fact, younger than my children. I welcome questions from younger – MUCH younger – colleagues. I would think that it would be pretty easy to figure out who would welcome such a relationship and who wouldn’t. And I am happy to have those with whom I have worked in the past contact me. Take advantage of the experience of people like me. I have seen a lot of silly mistakes made by young women when a question or two to the right person would have prevented that mistake. And I don’t care what you drink, so long as you don’t drink too much.

  14. Research, not Law :

    My primary advice (although I think R already has this down) is to simply treat them like anyone else. I don’t see this group as requiring specific guidelines. Maybe I’ve been unusually fortunate in my older female coworkers, but I’m just as likely to become friendly with them as someone my own age.

    The general advice for getting to know cowokers apply: Listen more than talk, at first. Be more selective about stories shared. But definitely order the drink you want. Be yourself! They know you are younger. No reason to pretend you are 45 just because they are.

  15. counselorcap :

    I would focus on developing relationships for the purpose of obtaining information and occasional counsel on how to deal with work situations, not on pre-jobhunting per se. At least not unless the person is very familiar with you and your record.

    Things may have changed, but law, at least at the hiring stage, is very meritocratic. That’s why it’s so important to go to a good law school and try to do as well as possible there. A firm isn’t going to hire you just because you’re a nice person and someone likes you.

    I once was friendly with a paralegal, who, in retrospect, was kind of opportunistic. He asked me to write him a recommendation for law school, which I did. As I recall, he had gone to an Ivy League school. The recommendation was for the law school I attended, which was highly competitive. The Dean of Admissions wrote me a nice note when the guy was rejected, apparently this guy was nowhere near the standard (I was no hotshot, this Dean was very kind and I assume he wrote all alums). Still, I was a little embarrassed.

    After the paralegal was rejected he barely spoke to me.

    • Why were you embarrassed? All you knew about him was how he was as a paralegal – unless you were privy to his LSAT scores and GPA, you’d have no reason to know he was below the standard. Besides, the dean probably writes to every alum because he doesn’t want you to stop donating.

  16. counselorcap :

    Drink what you like. Everyone deserves to enjoy her youth. Just don’t like act like someone in the cast of “Sex and the City.” Conduct yourself like the serious, dedicated young lawyer you hope to be one day.

  17. I could care less what a junior colleague drinks; I am as likely to order a new trendy drink as she might! I do want to warn women in the legal field to dress professionally. I just attended a bar swearing in ceremony and was embarrassed at what the women wore (on top of it they were having a picture taken with the Chief Justice!). I saw sundresses with tiny cardigans over them, short, short skirts and most women wore shoes with heel 3+ inches and/or sandals. I understand if you graduated with and ton of student loans you can’t afford a designer suit but the stuff I saw was awful!

  18. This is the second tine I’ve read on Corporette about what to drink around work colleagues (there was an entire post on it a couple of years ago). Not drinking too much is great advice, but changing what you drink to fit in seems weird to me.

    • Yeah, just don’t order the 30 year old scotch while the rest of us are drinking happy hour $4 wine and expect to split the bill evenly.

      Mark, I’m talking to you. (not that he’s reading this)

      • To me, there are some drinks that someone could order at a networking function or in a business setting that, to me, project, “I’m immature,” or “I’m looking to start my buzz for the night!” While this may just be me being judgemental, networkers should be aware that while some folks don’t care, others do take notice of what you order. I would raise an eyebrow to someone ordering super fruity, sugary, complicated, green, blue, red, or strong drinks, or things with silly names like, “appletini,” or “sex on the beach.” I think Kat pointed it out well that this is not about eating mozzerella sticks at the bar; neither is it about ordering your favorite, unwind with friends, after-work/Saturday night cocktail. It’s about the conversation, so keep it simple and understated, just like you would your wardrobe. Again, maybe I am oversensitive to this, but I’d stick with wine, vodka or gin and tonic/soda, beer (but only in a glass – never out of the bottle), or maybe a rum and coke. You wouldn’t go to a networking happy hour and order a Long Island Iced Tea, would you? It’s not about enjoying your favorite drink – it’s about getting to know the people you are with.

    • When I was 21 and a pre-law intern at a corporate headquarters, the whole office was taken to happy hour. When we arrived a woman told me not to order some fruity drink – nothing with an umbrella. She said that at work events women should only order white wine or bottled beer. It sounds funny to me now that I’m almost 40, but generally I stick to it. Now, I think of that advice as order something simple and classic. It’s about the networking not about if I like OJ in my margarita w/ or w/out salt.

      • counselorcap :

        I think taking it to the point of what drink you order is a little silly, but I agree that all work-related events should be treated as WORK.

  19. Wow, this young woman is actually a very smart cookie. I don’t know that I would have had the presence of mind in my early 20s to build up relationships with my friends’ parents to further my career. But then, I’m always a little uncomfortable with that friend/career contact line.

  20. Kaye Lastima :

    I am a 40-ish second career law student, with two young kids. Recently one of my vivacious younger law school colleagues stopped herself after uttering a mild epithet and giggled “gosh I shouldn’t swear in front of [Kaye] because she’s a mom!” I took pains to remind her that motherhood is actually the *cause* of swearing…

    The point is, don’t assume, just because I’m older than you, that I always wear sensible shoes and never stay up past 9:30…

Add a comment.

Questions? Check out our commenting policy. Tech problems? Please report it to the tech team.