My internship has taught me about the value of networking. The word — at least to me — oftentimes had a negative connotation. I perceived networking as something transparently devious, conniving, and self-centered. It was a necessary evil, but one that was inherently really egocentric.
Until I began building genuine connections with people.
It started with grabbing lunch with my editor later into my internship. We had a thorough and enjoyable conversation in which she told me she enjoyed my work, and that if I needed a reference moving forward, she’d feel comfortable doing so. This offering was networking in its purest sense: I had cultivated a professional relationship that could potentially pivot me forward. Yet nothing about it felt slimy or devious; it was a genuine offering made between two people. It stemmed from a genuine connection, a professional relationship that also contained friendly qualities.
It also happened when I visited USA Today’s office: a place where I freelance during the school year. My editor there also offered to connect me with people and potentially build further relationships. But I didn’t have to ask her — and it didn’t feel weird. It was genuine and rooted in a quality relationship.
These interactions are what I believe networking is truly meant to be. You’re supposed to build legitimate, quality friendships within the working world so these people can vouch for your character and credibility in the future. It’s not about a fifteen-minute schmooze fest where you sip cocktails in a confined area. Networking is about building genuine connections, and it’s important.