February 12, 2022

Career Services Blog

Six Degrees of Your Mentor

Have you ever played Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? It is a parlor game started over twenty years ago where players link actors to actor Kevin Bacon, in as few steps as possible, via the movies they have in common. The game was inspired by the theory of Six Degrees of Separation that nobody is more than six relationships away from any other person in the world. I don’t know about that – but I know these two things:

(1) I have never found an actor who did not connect back to Kevin Bacon within six degrees; and

(2) with some creative strategy, someone in your network could be within six degrees from your next job! 

The phenomenon of six degrees of separation within a professional mentoring context has been studied and documented. As you know, the Portland legal community is close and it does not seem outlandish at all to believe that everyone is well within six degrees of knowing each other. But the Lewis & Clark alumni network extends beyond Portland to the entire Pacific Northwest, and even nationally and internationally.

So how do you apply this theory to your current job search? Getting from you to your target connection requires a mind-map answer to the following three questions:

  1. What connection do you want to make? As in the Game, you must start with your intended target connection. Who do you want to connect with on the other side? This may require a bit of career strategy but you can select a specific person, or a broader target based on a firm, industry, or geographic location.

  2. Who is in your network? Your personal and professional network extends well beyond your official 1L attorney-mentor (though, they are an important link, too). Include anyone who you know or who has influenced you in your professional or personal life along your path to becoming an attorney. Think broadly. Official mentors, attorneys, supervisors, co-workers, classmates, family friends, relatives, professors, staff members, speakers, teammates, undergraduate connections, anyone you know at all in Colorado … you get the idea.

  3. How can you get from here to there? Sometimes the connection is obvious when you map out your own personal network. You want to meet a prosecutor in Seattle and we connect you with a Lewis & Clark Law alum who works with the King County Prosecutor’s Office. Easy – one degree. The rest of the time you have to walk it up the chain with some creativity. Ask yourself these types of questions:
    • Is there anyone in your network, including any Lewis & Clark Law alums, who work with your target person, or in your target firm, industry, or location?
    • Do you know someone who practices the same type of law as your target? What about similar areas of law such as management-side employment law for a corporate immigration law target?
    • Has your target person or firm ever presented at Lewis & Clark Law?
    • Does one of the professors know your target person or someone else in their industry?
    • Is your target person going to be presenting at an industry event? Can you attend?

Once you make that first network connection, then continue to ask these questions as you move closer, degree by degree. Ask for information interviews and introductions along the way. Your target person will be more likely to give you a moment if you approach them through an introduction rather than a cold call. And even if your target person does not have time to meet, at least you will have made some valuable connections along the way.