The most overused but necessary word in DC? Networking.

The most overused but necessary word in DC? Networking.

Mashable, one of the most widely read technology blogs in the world, recently published a list of the top 100 socially networked cities. Not surprisingly, D.C. was at the top of that list. When you move here, you will quickly develop a love-hate relationship with the concept of networking. On the one hand, your skills in networking will quickly open a million doors that were never before available to you, but on the other hand, the overuse of the word and its importance will quickly grow tiresome. Either way, you're going to have to become good at it if you want to establish contacts here for future employment, so I'm going to offer you a few tips I've picked up along the way.

1. If you are on the shyer side, like myself, one of the easiest ways to start a conversation is with a business card. TWC kindly provides every student with a pack of business cards, but if you have a knack for creativity, I'd recommend making a few of your own as well to showcase exactly what you want future employers to know about you. For example, while I hope to go into politics, doing political blogging, working on campaigns, and maybe one day making it to the Hill, I also absolutely love art. It doesn't make a lot of sense for me to blabber on to future political employers about the pursuits I have made in the fields of studio art and art history, but by having a more creative business card than the standard ivory-colored cardstock with fancy letters, they can tell that I like to stand out and would be a creative asset to their team.

2. Take business cards when they are given to you. Do you give your phone number out to people you don't want to talk to ever again? Of course not. If someone gives you their business card, they are giving you their name, phone number, email address, physical address, and social networking acocunts. They clearly want to be in contact with you again. You made an impression, so follow up with a quick email, even if all you have to say right now is "thank you." That "thank you" now could turn into a job interview later.

3. Sample everything. You know how when you go to the ice cream store, the best part is trying a million different flavors on those tiny little spoons? The same thing is true of D.C. There are endless opportunities to excel in any field you want, so try out a few different things. At my internship alone, I've gotten to work on social media strategies, writing blogs, reaching out to partners, planning fundraisers, organizing volunteers, and pushing campaigns on college campuses. It's helped me learn what I want to do and what I don't want to do, and in turn has led me to meet people who might be important in my future job search.

4. Make sure your online self reflects your real-life self. It's quite possible you're the most boring person in the world like me and have zero scandalous pictures on Facebook. Just make sure it stays that way by keeping your profile private. Employers like Facebook stalking just as much as we do, and no one wants a few silly pictures ruining a shot at an amazing career. Keep up with your Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and LinkedIn accounts--they are all great tools to show how active and passionate you are in the fields in which you are applying to work--just make sure that the content you put on them is what you want your public image to be years down the road, too.

5. Find a mentor. I've yet to accomplish this one myself, but it's one of my biggest goals to achieve before I go back to school in the fall. Mentors can guide you to the right places and the right people at the right times. People like helping other people, plain and simple. If you can find the person working in the position you eventually want to have, reach out to him or her. The worst thing that can happen is an ignored email or voicemail, but the best thing that can happen is a friendship that can foster job opportunities in the future.

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