Networking has been a great way for me to build professional connections in D.C.
Whether it has been grabbing coffee with someone I’ve met or going to an event with a room of strangers, I have experienced various types of networking opportunities while in D.C., and occasionally found myself networking unexpectedly. Networking is really what you make of it. Below are some general types of networking and my experiences with them.
Networking Happy Hour
Happy hours and networking go together very well in D.C. One of the first networking events I attended was a happy hour for healthcare professionals at a restaurant in D.C. Anyone in the health field could attend. At this event, we signed in, got a name tag and were then free to roam and meet others for the remainder of the time. They provided food which was a plus.
These events truly feel like networking because it is a room full of people I had never met before but could add to my professional network. Happy hours aren't for everyone, but are a good way to break out of your shell and learn how to talk about yourself. Through this event, I connected with a fellow at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Turns out, we had been going to some of the same conferences.
Overall, I found happy hours to be a little awkward to walk up to people and just start chatting, but it was still a worthwhile experience. I met a person I had something in common with at one, and events like these have great potential.
Networking at Conferences
As part of my internship, I regularly attend briefings, conferences, and events throughout the city. Chatting with the person next to me led to meeting new people on a weekly basis. I quickly learned to perfect my elevator pitch so I could strike up a conversation with people at these events and let them know who I am. I found that people really enjoy hearing that you are an intern because it is an opportunity for them to share information about themselves and offer advice! A lot of people want to help interns with broadening their connections or offering advice to future careers and grad schools.
At one conference I attended, I met the deputy director of Iona Senior Services, who was also a panelist. I was able to connect with her and set up an informational interview where she gave me career advice, talked to me about her background and told me about internship programs with her organization.
This is my favorite way of networking because it is casual and conversational. We can connect about the event we are there for and then go into talking about ourselves. Mostly, everyone I speak to will offer me their business card and talk to me about my future plans!
I found that people really enjoy hearing that you are an intern because it is an opportunity for them to share information about themselves and offer advice!Morganne Blazejak
Networking at TWC Events
TWC offers multiple networking events throughout the semester. One event I attended was the Annual Scholarship Dinner. The hour before the formal event was designated for check-in and a networking reception. As people arrived I ran into some familiar faces and was able to start chatting with people.
At this event I was able to connect with alumni from TWC and my university, one of whom now lives in D.C. I also met with someone from TWC and we had a conversation about my internship. He offered great advice about some places to check out in the city that I had not yet been.
Networking in the Office
The office I work in is very small, only three people in total. I didn't really have any opportunities to network in the office. However, many interns do have this opportunity and prefer this type of networking.
My friend, Sally, works at the U.S. Department of State and has had many opportunities to meet different experts in International Affairs. She told me a funny story about the second day of her internship when she met an expert from the U.S Institute of Peace (USIP). The subject was political and cultural dynamics between India and Pakistan. Sally, completely starstruck, stumbled over her words but managed to ask him about his past work and exchange business cards.
These are but a few networking opportunities in D.C. Thanks to my experience, I have learned how to improve my communication skills and received tons of advice! I have gained a strong network that will provide me with mentors and referrals when it comes time to apply for graduate school. While in D.C., be sure to take advantage of any networking opportunities that come your way. It can lead to new connections, friendships and valuable skills.
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