How Networking is about More than a Network

Posted on Monday, Jul 30, 2018

Washington D.C. is filled with nightly networking receptions and power hours that attract young, bright-eyed interns, hustling young professionals, and seasoned political pros. It can be easy to be intimidated by the thought of talking yourself up to a stranger – especially if that stranger is successful and well-connected. However, networking has been one of the highlights of my summer so far for reasons that reach far beyond simply expanding my network, and I want for you too start to look at networking as more than just growing your Rolodex -- or iPhone contacts list.
 
I am fortunately surrounded by colleagues at my internship at the Department of Commerce that are excited and willing to invest in my future and sit down with me for hours to discuss my goals and my plans as well as give me detailed accounts of their experiences throughout their careers. The benefits of the guidance I’ve received from professionals high up in the field in which I intend to work cannot be overstated.
 
By meeting with these professionals in the international trade realm, I’ve gotten even further connected to analysts, attorneys, and specialists in other offices as well as other agencies – and each person to whom I have spoken have offered invaluable advice to me.
 
Another phenomenal benefit to actively networking is the confidence that comes with it. When I had my first networking meeting with a director at my dream office at my agency, I was incredibly nervous. I had written down a list of questions as well as my goals for our conversation. I expected a short meeting with brief answers to my questions, but the meeting turned out to be quite the opposite.
 
She and I spoke for an hour and a half and connected over similar interests and the fact that our hometowns were only 20 minutes from each other. Afterwards, she connected me with other people she knows or has worked with who have also been greatly helpful with offering guidance to me. Since that meeting, I haven’t been nervous to meet new professionals because I realized that they are more than happy to help and offer guidance – and it’s a great excuse for a coffee break!
 
Networking is vital for furthering yourself professionally – not just because you do need to know as many people as you can – but also because you get to learn more about yourself and grow stronger in who you are as a professional and as a person. How do you think networking can help you in your career and personal goals?

Caroline Stout
U.S. Department of Commerce
Washington, D.C. | summer 2018