Networking and Events in DC
Networking. This small word is one of the most important aspects of anyone’s time in DC. This city is all about knowing someone. That person might know someone, who knows someone, who can get you where you need to go or get your resume on top of the pile. Networking in DC as an undergrad, when you have little to no connections to people in your field can be very difficult. It can also be difficult for people who have goals to work in small sections of policy.
That’s why one of the biggest challenges I have faced in DC this semester is the prospect of networking. As someone who is an aspiring subject matter expert in Canadian-US relations, I haven’t been able to meet many people this semester in my field, or even many people working in international relations period. I have been hesitant to reach out to anyone who I did meet in these fields as an undergrad with little experience or reason to reach out other than interest. While I have made great connections at my workplace, I have been eager to make other connections but was cautious to reach out to people.
As this semester has continued, I have learned a few things about networking. First of all, networking is hard work. I am a part of an extremely demanding program with events 3 times a week outside of 9-5 work hours. Networking outside of my current commitments can be not only tiring but also intimidating. However, good networking is truly is worth the work. Even if you are shy, putting yourself out there and meeting someone who can unlock a door for you is so important.
Second, advocate for yourself and your interests. Ask a mentor to take you to events, introduce you to people, connect you to people with common interests. Look for events around DC that meet your interests. All it takes is one event to meet the right people and no one can advocate for you better than you.
Third, don’t force a connection. I tried to have a conversation with a representative from a company I knew was hiring. The representative was not interested in talking to me. While at first, this was upsetting, this was just one conversation that I had that night and all the rest went extremely well. Lastly, it is important to use all your resources and connect with peers along with coworkers. I have made great networking connections through my roommates in my WISH housing and peers in my Washington Student Intern Program.
Networking can be intimidating and stressful in a city full of accomplished people. Especially in certain subject matter and becoming an expert, you have to work hard for connections. At the end of the day, putting in the work is worth it and one conversation could put you right where you are hoping to be.