The term has been thrown around a lot these past couple of days, as students of the WJC program have kneeled eagerly before alumni for words of wisdom or assurance that the coming term paper will not result in 15 cases of stress ulcers. Yet overall, there has been a resounding echo of the need to A) get a business card and B) learn how to network. That is, unless you want to sleep on the news rather than write it.
So what is networking really and why is it so vital to the survival of a Washington D.C. intern? The Urban Dictionary website defines networking in less formal terms:
Networking is a “yuppie euphemism for kissing [butt] in order to get a job or obtain a raise or promotion.”
According to a recent article in Entrepreneur magazine, networking requires a set of skills and strengths but “you don’t have to become Mr. Man-About-Town, to be a successful networker.” In my experience so far, getting the business card has come down to the single method of being in the right place at the right time.
A group of us made a trek to Eastern market on a Saturday afternoon. This flea market provides an array of food groups and local artwork that tempt your wallet (and your stomach). Being in the spirit of “taking on new experiences”—my mantra for this coming semester—I decided to walk to CVS pharmacy for a box of cereal when the group had to leave. On the way back to my apartment, I stopped in front of a colonial style duplex to marvel at a pond in the front yard that had frozen over. For a California girl, this is not your usual sight. As I proceeded to let down my trying-to-be-a-local front, I grabbed my camera for a quick shot when the owner of the residence walked out.“Umm hi, can I help you?”
“Sorry, I’m from California.”
The conversation continued with the man beyond this (thankfully) until I was somehow left waving goodbye with his business card in my hand, the parchment resounding pulses of provision in my palm. I had received a business card. I had networked. The man, turns out, was also a California native who missed the ocean as much as me. His current position in D.C.? The Pentagon. I’m scheduled to get a private tour next week.
I’m soon beginning to learn that D.C., known as the most powerful small town in the world, is in fact a small town where those you pass on the way to the grocery store are the powerful and power-producing. Even on the plane ride over, the simple act of starting up a conversation with the person sitting next to me provided another contact—this time from seafood entrepreneurs in North Carolina.
The town seems to thrive off of this diversity and makes for a dynamic atmosphere. A fair example is Ben’s Chili Bowl restaurant where blue-collar workers, tourists, Supreme Court judges and even the likes of comedian Bill Cosby dine. President Barack Obama as well enjoyed Ben’s infamous Chili Half-Smoke in early January.
So when it comes to being in the right place to meet a new possible network, everywhere is fair game—even the sidewalks and chilidog stands.Just have a little curiosity…you never know who you’ll bump into next.