Who do you talk to about your plans for the future? Your mom? Your uncle who does a job you think is interesting? Your coach from high school, because he seems to care? Your best friend because they get you? Whoever they are, that’s your current network. But now you maybe have questions that your current network can’t answer, or maybe you’re thinking a few more points of view couldn’t hurt. Those are good reasons to expand your network. Before we talk about how to do that, let’s be clear about what the fruits of networking are and aren’t.

Networking, on its own, will probably not land you a highly sought after, really hard to get internship. Networking’s first step, the informational interview, is not the same thing as showing someone your value through hard work. A chat over coffee is unlikely to make someone your champion for all time. Networking is not the same as having a Senator for a neighbor or a rich and powerful uncle who can pick up the phone and use some of their social capital to get you an internship. But. Networking will allow you to meet possible selves; people doing things with their lives that maybe you would like to do. You can talk to them about how they got there, which missteps they wish they could have avoided, and what they feel they did right. Networking will give you brand new ideas about what you might do this summer, a course you might take, or a hobby to explore. Networking will expand your horizons.

If you accept this definition of networking, the following blog series will I hope be helpful as you take your first steps. Before you dive in, a few parting words of advice. Remember that everyone you reach out to was once your age and had lots of gaps in their knowledge too. Be yourself, don’t be transactional, be grateful and respectful and you’ll be creating relationships that will enrich your life before you know it.

Deirdre Martinez, PIW Executive Director, January 2021

In this series, Chardonnay Needler (C’23) collected some of the most useful tips from our networking project.