The dos and don’ts of D.C. networking

Most of the time, it is about who you know. Did your best friend intern with your congressman? Maybe your senator attends your church back home. Think creatively about how to use your contacts to better help you in your next job move.

Always carry business cards — many in the D.C. area operate through these small index cards. As you meet and network with people, always ask for a card and make sure you have yours ready as soon as you get theirs. Also, remember to write descriptive words on the back of the cards you receive to better help you remember the people you meet.

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Don’t just let your business cards litter your desk or couch at home — try to keep them organized in a Rolodex, or perhaps an Excel spreadsheet.

Develop a strong relationship with an individual you can see as your mentor. Are you working as a press assistant but have dreams of being communications director? Or perhaps you’re interested in becoming a lobbyist but aren’t sure of the correct steps to take to achieve your goal. Start by asking the communications director in your office about the job over coffee, or get in touch with someone you know involved in lobbying and have lunch. Learn what each position entails, down to the schedule each person has and what skills you need to acquire in order to follow in their footsteps.

Also, try to make yourself a more well-rounded person. By getting involved in charities you’re interested in, or volunteering with organizations you enjoy, you are ultimately making yourself more marketable to people from whom you are seeking a job.

A great organization to contact, especially if you’re already working on Capitol Hill, is Horton’s Kids, a tutoring and mentoring organization devoted to bettering the lives of the children in the District’s Anacostia neighborhood.

Reading is Fundamental is another active organization in the D.C. area. The organization says their mission is to motivate young children from birth to the age of eight to help promote literacy and make reading fun. The group has plenty of volunteer options in the area. For more information, visit www.rif.org.

It’s always helpful to join a networking group. In D.C., there are many various groups to consider, especially if you’re interested in switching careers or looking for a new job. For example, the D.C. Society of Young Professionals (www.dcyoungpro.com) is a free organization for those ages 21 to 45. 

And remember, be patient. Right now, the unemployment rate is high, and many are in the exact same position as you right now. With the recent election, you may need to examine other job options for the time being. Know that you are not alone.