Mirage the People

Mirage the People

When I first applied to The Washington Center, my only conception of the program was that I would be doing an internship and taking an academic seminar that would generate enough credits to cover a semester for me—the best part of it all is being situated in Washington, DC.  Halfway through the semester, it’s finally registering to me that this is an opportunity much greater than I have given it credit for. With no professional work experience behind me prior to this, this opportunity has created a wealth of valuable skills that I don’t feel like I have taken enough advantage of. One of the skills that I have acquired over the last couple months of being in DC is networking. Every aspect of this program revolves around this concept of networking, and you will see this in no time after your first couple of days in the program.

 

Events-->Networking

One of the things I really recommend doing in DC is attending discussions, forums and events, etc. at institutions such as the Woodrow Wilson Center, the Brookings Institute, the Center for American Progress, and the Cato Institute. Not only will you learn and get a great deal of insight from these think tanks but you will have the opportunity to meet all kinds of people afterwards and have the chance to get a cup of coffee with them. The Washington Center as well as my internship supervisor is always encouraging us to attend these events. I've usually never been denied some time off to go to these events. You can browse their websites or sign up to get weekly updates of coming events. One great website you can sign up for is DC Linktank. You'll get a weekly update of many interesting forums and discussions at various institutions on many of the public issues in the U.S.

 

Building Relationships:

For many of the international students such as myself, there are reasons to think that the relationships we build here are futile. However, what most students forget is that we are in DC. This is the one city in the world that most countries around the world channel across. Similar to other capital cities around the world like Ottowa (in Canada), Washington, DC is not likely the first choice for international students to study abroad. However, this doesn't mean that the city lacks the cultural diversity and international flair that is present in most global cities.

 

Organizations such as the North American Free Trade Assosiation (NAFTA), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organization (WTO), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and countless international advocacy groups are all centered and have a huge presence in the area. All it takes is a little bit of work and some minor networking skills and you can find contacts in all, or most, of these organizations just to get your name out there or take something useful out of it. One of the things that I have learned about networking is that most times you will meet with  an individual in a field that you have no affinity to. And at first, this was a bit depressing. However, if you are willing to explore it anyways, you'll find that these individuals are connected to a wider range of people than you would expect.

 

Don't forget to utilize your internship. Most likely, everyone you are surrounded by in DC will have some kind of connection to the people you want to get in contact with for the future. For instance, I got to engage in a conversation with one of my senior VPs last week where I got to learn a little about his background and credentials and he learned a little of mine. He was able to get me in contact with an old friend, a corporate lawyer currently employed with Chevron Corporation. In fact, I was able to reach out to him instantly, and that same evening,  we met a few blocks away where I was able to conduct a 'quasi'-informational interview with him and was able to acquire much useful information. I was also able to get an informational interview with a diplomat from the State Department. These are the kinds of experiences I have never even thought about but now feel confident enough that similar ones could be made back in Canada.

 

Also, don't forget about the friends you've made who are also interning through TWC. Some of the internships here are incredible ie. NAFTA, State Department, U.S. Marshals, Small Business Administration, Politico, financial institutions such as Merill Lynch,the  Federal Exchange Commission, USAID, embassies, large and small PR firms, Peace Corps, and it goes on. It wouldn't hurt to try and get an informational interview with the supervisors at one of these sites.  

 

The one thing I needed to make sure of, was following up with the people that I've met. These relationships are meaningless otherwise. It's sometimes hard to do, and I find the only way for me to really live up to what I'm saying here is by setting aside time at the end of the week to sit down and fire off thank you emails, or 'hi, it was nice to meet you!' emails. And don't forget to take up the chance to give out your TWC business cards :D 

 

 

 

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