Networking is a big buzzword for anyone who wants to succeed in business—and who doesn’t?
But how do you actually do it right today so that it opens new doors in your career tomorrow?
Networking is a must for career growth, which is why we create so many opportunities for it for the interns who stay with us.
One of our interns said: “You never know who you’ll meet here and who they will be someday.”
That’s right. Now is the time to grow your connections in a purposeful way that impacts your career later on. There is no better way to do that than by getting to know people who can assist and mentor you throughout your career—and vice versa. Even Hillary Clinton started out as an intern herself, as many who come to DC do. Today’s intern is tomorrow’s leader!
Keep expanding your network to include everyone from friends and family to work colleagues, members of volunteer or social groups… and more.
Pitfall: Many people on the networking scene tend to overdo it. They collect a basket of business cards at an event, but then what?
How to avoid this pitfall:
- Prepare yourself. If this is possible, look at the guest list before you go. Look for people you want to meet, and make sure you meet them. Focus on fewer people that matter. This is not a cocktail party. The goal is quality, not quantity!
- Focus on a goal. Look for and talk to people who might be a good business connection in a specific area. You may want to intern at the Smithsonian, so find someone who works there. You may be interested in becoming a journalist, so seek out someone who is and talk to them. Be ready with an intelligent question and make yourself memorable. (More on that below)
- If you start talking to someone you know isn’t even on your radar, excuse yourself.
- Follow up: Only pick a few key people and follow up with an email, a written card, a small book or an invite to another event. If you choose carefully, it should be easier to do this.
Here’s how networking today opens new doors in your career tomorrow:
Here are some of the reasons we advocate so strongly for networking during your stay in our nation’s capital.
Networking strengthens relationships.
Networking is all about giving, not taking. That’s right. People who give get it back tenfold. Businesspeople can tell if you are there to get something (a big turnoff) or to contribute (a big plus).
How to be a giver:
- Send a link to an article/webinar/book they would benefit from
- Make a professional introduction that will benefit them
- Invite them to a social event or seminar
- Share an idea that would help their business
- Be supportive when they are having a tough time
Did any of these cost a dime? Nope, but they do take a little time, thoughtfulness and creativity.
- This has a lasting impact and builds trust
- It makes you memorable
- It shows you care
Networking is about bonding with likeminded people and supporting one another towards career success.
- Actively nurture these relationships by engaging with people over time.
- Think about how you can support others within your circle.
The point is to continue to build on the bonds that you’ve formed so that when the time comes for reciprocal assistance in achieving your own goals, you have a network and friends there to support you.
When you help others, not only does it feel good, but you never know when they might return the favor down the line.
- Networking raises your profile. You can’t advance without first being noticed. That’s one of the benefits of networking. It provides opportunities to be noticed. Build your profile by attending professional or social events to form connections. Do it enough, and you will eventually be in the right place at the right time for someone to present you with a welcome opportunity.
- Networking opens new doors. When you expand your contacts, you open doors to new opportunities. This includes expansion in everything from career advancement, to business, to personal growth and knowledge. Networking helps to keep you top-of-mind. This means that when they have an opportunity come up like a job opening, you are more likely to come to mind as a potential referral or candidate.
- Networking widens your support network. When you network, you have a chance to gain invaluable advice from experienced peers. It opens doors for in-depth discussions about common challenges and opportunities for suggestions and guidance.
- Networking provides perspective and fresh ideas. Inspiration and connection can be found anywhere. Your network is an excellent resource when it comes to gaining new perspectives and creative thought to help advance your career. Exchange information and experiences when facing challenges and setting new goals as you can gain new insights that you otherwise may not have thought of. That goes for you as well. Reciprocate often and offer your own helpful ideas to others to build your reputation as an innovative thinker.
- Networking is an excellent way to learn and exchange information. Whether opportunity for career advancement presents or not, you will benefit from networking no matter what. When you network, you’re exposed to new people, places, ideas, information and so much more. Networking is an opportunity to learn new practices, ideas, techniques, and just overall valuable information that can help you along your career path.
In order to advance in your field, adopt an extremely competitive career mindset. Any advantage you can give yourself uplevels your visibility. With the right network in place, you will be able to access opportunities that simply aren’t available to others in your shoes.
Always remember that networking is about reciprocity. When you help others, they will want to help you. Ultimately, networking should benefit everyone involved.
So, be serious about the connections that you form today; you never know where those relationships may lead tomorrows.