At this point in your life, I’m sure you’ve heard the term “networking,” hundreds of times. If you’ve been living under a rock, here’s a quick definition: “To interact with other people and exchange information to develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.” We use this term constantly, at happy hours, at conferences, sometimes even on the metro. There are entire networking events dedicated to meeting people and building work relationships with them.
Regardless of where you are in your relationship with networking: love it, hate it, a seasoned pro, or just starting out, there are some things you should know. No doubt, networking is vital for success in politics. Having connections helps immeasurably with gaining experience, finding opportunity, and receiving recommendations. It’s good to know people in your field, especially when you can help each other out from time to time. You can and should network, but understand that networking is not all about what others can do for you. Understand that it’s okay to look for something a little more personal.
A common stereotype in the business world eludes to keeping people close when you need them and discarding the relationship when it has reached the point where you are no longer benefiting. What a sad way that must be to live. Too often I see young politicos obsessed with reaching the next level of success. For them, it is a constant battle of outdoing their peers. Going to one more banquet, giving one more speech, or writing for one more publication than the next person. While it’s always nice to have a competitive edge, don’t be the person who pushes others away just to get one rung higher on the ladder. Do not allow a “straight to the top” mentality to cloud your vision and cause you to ignore the people who have lent you a hand up or a little push in the right direction. Networking has it’s place, but it doesn’t hurt to go the extra mile. Don’t just make connections, make friends. Connect with people who can not only introduce you to a potential employer, but who will continue pursuing a friendship and encouraging you to reach your goals.
Today’s youth is known for not socializing well. Whether it’s our lack of communication (seriously, just answer the phone when someone calls you,) our adoration for all things tech or our tendency to burn bridges like candles, beware of replacing the potential for meaningful relationships with career boosting one-time only contact. Politics can be a cut throat, cold, and unforgiving field. Find people to cheer for who will also cheer for you. Find people who will understand your political jokes and who you can have a fun, light hearted banter with. It is a huge advantage to you to have a few close, politically minded friends, who you can bounce ideas off of before you put your thoughts into action. Don’t make connections, build relationships. Don’t network, make friends.
Image Credits: BelongMagazine