Networking - Knock on Every Door

Posted on Tuesday, Jul 28, 2020

Does the thought of meeting new people intimidate you? I’ve had to conquer this fear while working in Washington D.C. with the Public Policy Internship Program. 

With networking you need to embrace new people—only please, not literally, there is a pandemic happening.

Knock on every door!

The pandemic introduces another layer of awkwardness to meeting new people: phone call, video chat, or in-person meeting (with conversations about PPE). 

Just do it.

Networking is a skill best developed by doing. This is how you find the next step. Meet new people, ask them questions, and listen to their perspectives. Networking is an active process; you have to put in the effort.

Make your own opportunities, find an(other) internship, fellowship, or job. Networking is an active process; you have to put in the effort. As John Muir said, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.”

So, what are you waiting for? Knock on every door you can. Take that risk and meet someone new—responsibly and with full awareness of proper public health precautions.

Still nervous? I’ve included a checklist below. This list has five elements I find helpful to remember while networking.
  1. Be fearless - New situations are uncomfortable. Meeting new people in new situations can be even more uncomfortable. This discomfort is a sign of growth, of change. Embrace it. Own it. Remember that the people you are networking with are human, just like you. They can also feel awkward and uncomfortable. They get where you are coming from because they had to learn how to network as well. Knock every door.
 
  1. Use your resources - Careers can be made by networking. Take the time to intentionally network. Use your resources. Don’t be afraid to crowdsource. Brainstorm with friends, colleagues, mentors, and other people you work with—such as the coordinator of Texas A&M University’s Public Policy Internship Program. Not only can other people help you identify potential networking opportunities but they can also provide introductions. These introductions can be invaluable!
 
  1. Be prepared (impressions matter) - Recognize that a stranger has gifted you time when you schedule a networking opportunity. Be respectful of their time by doing your homework before meeting with them. Identify what your goal is when meeting this person. Don’t waste their time—you want to be pleasant, polite, kind, and goal-oriented. Research the person you are meeting with. Do they have a Linkedin Profile? Perhaps you can find a resume posted online? Have they given interviews for a news outlet about their jobs? A quick Google search can net you valuable details to prepare for your meeting.
 
  1. Actively listen - While networking, focus on the person you are talking with. Make eye contact—occasionally, not all the time (Don’t be weird). Use visual cues to let the person you are networking know you are paying attention them. The most important thing is to listen to what they say. When you ask a question, listen for the answer. Be reflective. How does the answer shape your perspective? Was it surprisingly? Expected? Give them a reaction, back it up with what you are thinking. This is how you make conversation. As part of networking, ask them if there is someone else you should be talking with. Don’t forget that networking is a two-way street. You have valuable things to contribute even if you don’t know what they are yet. Listen and find the places where you can contribute. Open a door for them!
 
  1. Keep in touch - Manners matter. Someone has carved time out of their schedule to meet with you. Thank them for making time to meet with you. This must be done in a timely manner! I recommend waiting no longer than the end of the business day. If you meet Friday over lunch, send a thank-you email by 5 PM. If you meet on Saturday, by 5 PM Monday is probably acceptable. Pro tip: Also thank the person that introduced you! Once you’ve developed a contact, keep in touch to keep them in your network. Everyone is a potential network. During the internship interviews, ask to follow-up while you are in DC regardless of whether you work with them. The door is open—keep it open. Send periodic emails to see how things are progressing with them, invite them out for drinks (alcoholic or non-) or a bite to eat. Remember that all of your network are human beings too.
 
Still nervous about contacting that person you really want to talk with? Circle back around to #2 and find out who you already know that could introduce you. Be fearless and build your networking.

Knock on every door!

Micah Waltz
Environmental Protection Agency
Washington, D.C. | summer 2020