We have always heard, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”  But how many of us have really thought about the legitimacy of that statement?  Throughout our years of schooling, we have been trained to believe that our education is the most important asset in our future careers.  We are never taught to connect with other students or adults, especially while in high school. 

Since being in DC this summer, I have realized just how important it is to network, especially if you want to eventually work in politics.  And even if you don’t want to pursue a career in politics, you will be amazed at how people have connections to prominent businessmen and women all around the nation. 

So, why is networking important?  The obvious reason is it can help you get a job.  But it goes deeper than that.  You never know how the person you meet today will help you tomorrow.  From helping you secure a job, to helping you find a good physician in your new place of residence, to giving you a ride at 3:00 AM, your network will always have something great to offer you. 

How do you network?  Christopher Malagisi, the director of CPAC, is the master networker.  He has developed a fool-proof process of networking that is guaranteed to help any person who is struggling with meeting people to become one of the greatest networkers around.  First step, develop a game plan.  What are you trying to accomplish? Where do you want and need to be in order to meet people?  Who do you need to meet?  These are questions that are very personal for each person.  One person may want to meet fellow interns at the Young Republicans meeting every other Tuesday in order to make more friends for the summer.  Another person may want to meet prominent political activists at the Heritage Foundation every Friday night in order to get a job in the future.  Whatever the reason behind your desire to network might be, develop a game plan.  Even if you are just interested in making friends, that’s fine! Meet different people, and get introduced to even more people.  You never know if these people will be helping you in the future.

Second step of networking: Make contact! You have 30 seconds to make a good first impression.  Utilize those 30 seconds to not only make the conversation about you, but figure out who the person is and how you can connect with them on a more personal level.  When you make someone else feel important, they will be more willing to open up to you and establish a great connection.  Some tips for making contact: #1 Network by Sector (Capitol Hill, Think Thanks, Media, Government).  #2 Develop a goal (I will get 5 business cards tonight, and I will set up lunch meetings with each of those 5 people).  #3 Write the day, the place, and a couple interesting facts about the person that can help you in the future.  (I met a lady in church the other day, through another person in my network, and I wrote on the back of her card where I met her, where she works, and what day I met her.  And after meeting with her, I will include a couple more notes that will help me make a stronger connection with her in the future).

A really impressive and important date I would try to obtain when networking is the other’s birthday.  Use that date to call them, email them, or send them a birthday card!  They won’t expect it, and you will stand out!  

The last step to networking is the follow up.  The first thing you do when you get home that night, or into your office the next morning, is add your new contacts to your address book.  You can maintain your contacts in Outlook, Gmail, an Excel spreadsheet, or an old fashioned rolodex.  Make sure you include their name, number, email, address as applicable, and a couple notes you can use in the future.   Email your new contact within 48 HOURS of meeting them.  If you met someone who is very prominent and can help you beyond what you can expect (VPs of a company, a well-known activist, etc.) write them a personal note that you can send in the mail.  People always love receiving personal mail, and you will stand out beyond the hundreds of other people they meet on a daily basis.  Definitely write a “Thank You” letter after the follow up interview/meeting!  

So, now you are equipped to get out there and start networking and making great connections!  Your DC internship, your job search, and your overall relationship building is about to get better!  Just use these tips, and you will be on your way to a building a successful and strong network!