We write about it on College Mag over and over: Network with your professor, network with family friends, network with your peers…
…But is anyone listening? In the past week I’ve watched two of my friends in their mid-twenties underestimate the power of networking.
Today, it’s more fact than opinion: You must network to get the internship/job you want. And by network, I don’t mean connecting on LinkedIn. I mean choosing one career you’re passionate about (Just pick something; it doesn’t have to be your path for the rest of your life) contacting anyone in that field and setting up a coffee date to learn more. That’s right, I said it, email or call another human. Don’t feel intimidated that they won’t want to talk to you; people are honored when someone asks for their advice.
My sophomore year, I applied for an editorial internship with Washingtonian Magazine. I put my best efforts towards my application, and as much as I thought I was qualified, I wasn’t selected. A few weeks later, I had a class assignment that required us to hold an informational interview with an employer. I chose the assistant editor at Washingtonian, meanwhile thinking, I’ll show her the kind of intern she missed out on hiring. I called her office phone, told her about my passion for magazine journalism and said I would love to take her to coffee to learn more about her role at Washingtonian and how she got to where she is today. She said yes!
I prepared and printed out 10 questions to ask her, dressed in business casual and drove thirty minutes into Washington DC for a quick coffee. While I never re-applied to Washingtonian, that meeting is the reason for my success today. She told me that I needed to build my portfolio and how to do it. She talked about ways to get involved in journalism that I hadn’t thought of before (such as write for a newsletter or small publication at my school, even one that no one read, just to get my first clip). It turned out that I really wasn’t qualified to be at Washingtonian. But with her advice, I worked on getting published clips which then helped me secure an editorial internship at Washington Spaces magazine, a connection through my English professor. That summer I interned at my university’s Alumni Association’s magazine with a recommendation from my friend Jen, a former intern. And during my senior year, I was hired for my first job at a consulting firm after networking with a former classmate who was already working for the company.
While I witness my friends sending online job applications, I think about how I’ve never heard anyone tell me a success story through this process. I dare you to ask 10 employed people how they got their jobs. I bet it’s through a friend of a friend, a professor or family member. If you do, leave a comment to let me know the majority response.