Networking: An Integral Aspect of Career Development
Congratulations! You just graduated from college! This is a wonderful achievement that took many years of hard work and long nights. You might be thinking, “now what?” The next step is to go out into the world and use the skills you’ve gained in school to become a rock star at “adulting.” You might be in a new city, with people that you’ve never met, and captivated by a world filled with opportunity. You are ready to start building your career. But how?
This is where networking comes in. I see networking as intentionally connecting with individuals to learn from their career experiences and, through that, grow in your own career path. Networking is vital to the growth of a young professional and their career. Networking is taking full advantage of connecting with new people. I truly believe that we can all support each other in our professional journeys by expanding and leveraging our networks.
Serving as an Andrew Goodman Ambassador for The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s (AGF) Vote Everywhere program while attending Elon University, I found like-minded students who wanted to combat voter suppression and educate other students on their right to vote. My time working with stakeholders, policy analysts, lawyers, and passionate individuals at AGF and in Elon Votes!—our civic engagement initiative on campus—led me to work on Capitol Hill, where I found myself practicing the same skills I learned and exercised at AGF to mitigate diverse opinions and instigate social change. Working on Capitol Hill has been an opportunity that I’ve aspired to ever since the fateful day I declared myself a Political Science major. Walking the halls of the lawmakers of our nation is inspiring; although very hectic, I am in the place I know I should be.
I was able to get here with the help of my developed network which was inspired by these three concepts:
1. Practice Your Elevator Speech
Although it may be difficult to believe, people want to help you with your professional journey. However, people cannot help if they do not know what you want. If you are able to convey where you see yourself and what you want to gain from an experience, then people will know where to point you. It is important to be able to speak to what you have done and what you are looking to do. My Elon Votes! partner and fellow Andrew Goodman Ambassador, Gabby Vance, was a pivotal figure in my decision to pursue law school in the future and to focus on election law to make our laws more equitable. At the time, I was not able to completely convey how I wanted to help, but she took the time to hear what I was attempting to articulate and point me in the right direction.
Generally speaking, people sum one another up within a 30-second time period. Clearly, this is a short period of time for someone to truly get to know you, but even more of a reason to be clear and succinct in everyday interactions. In networking, it is critical to articulate what you need and want for your career. Once you are able to articulate your thoughts, you will be able to use this speech whenever an opportunity arises. Maybe in the elevator, maybe on a bus, or maybe, at a friend’s birthday party.
As I get older, I have realized the saying “the world is a small place” is true in so many ways. We all have circles of people in our lives, and those people have the same amount of people in their lives. What happens if another Andrew Goodman Ambassador knows someone who has a cousin at the company that you really want to work for? There is a connection right there! Some people may or may not be in the field that we want to be in or anywhere near it, but it’s worth it to reach out and see if a connection is there. One contact and conversation might lead you to this discovery, which could lead you to an interview. You all already have networks; it is time to capitalize on them and see where they can take you. We have so many untapped resources at our disposal, and there is no time like now to recognize them.
3. Be Intentionally There
It is helpful to be intentional about the sorts of networking events that you should attend and the spaces you put yourself in. I went to the Hill and had as many coffees as I could and spoke with various staff. The goal was to have my resume circulating around as many offices as possible so that I had the best opportunity to be reached out to. There was an intentionality in my decisions. I knew why I was there and what my intended goal was in terms of growing my professional network.
I attribute this skillset to my time with AGF and meeting with various Ambassadors, civic engagement stakeholders, and scores of individuals with the same mission as me. We had a common connection, and I realized it was vital to focus on that connection to cultivate a relationship. It is important to have this thought process at any networking event or setting in which you would like to connect professionally with someone. Otherwise, one could wear themselves out from networking with people too far outside of their realm. These events are almost always networking events that have people who want to make a huge splash in their respective industries. This is where it comes in handy to be able to speak to what you want.
Don’t forget, above all, to be yourself! Remember employers want to work with you—the actual you—who is driven to do amazing work for whatever entity you are a part of. Trust me, I know it’s hard, but it is doable with some extra effort and these tips in mind. Believe me, I am still unsure of my dream career and where I want to land, but if you do your best to remember why you are seeking the opportunities you want and to articulate them, then you will find your way.
Please feel free to contact me at Thomas.Armooh@gmail.com if you would like to discuss more networking tips!
About The Author
Thomas Armooh is a recent graduate of Elon University, a former Andrew Goodman Ambassador, and a current member of the Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere Alumni Association’s Executive Board. He is currently an intern in the Office of Congressman David Trone (MD-6th). He is also a volunteer Program Manager for the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.S Academy, a non-profit organization in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which focuses on mentoring minority males.