Panelists with a few years of experience discussed their story and how they used networking to get jobs and then do better once they started working. Several common themes emerged, and I challenged attendees at the end to do the following:
1. Read the IHS Guide to Public Policy Careers and AFF’s “Free the Future” blog. Specifically, we recommend Nigel Ashford’s networking chapter and Peter Redpath’s networking series for an introduction to networking.
2. Attend at least one networking event per month, or more! There are all kinds of free or low-cost events each week for you to attend, including breakfasts, lunches, happy hours, and dinners. Hear interesting speakers but also meet new people and learn what they are doing. Consider events outside your direct area of study so you become more well-rounded and broaden your network. Your college probably has alumni events, too.
3. Talk to 3 people at an event and follow up via phone or email. There will be 50, 100, or more people at each event, so make it your goal to only meet 3 new people at each event, in addition to the friends and colleagues you already know. Ask for their business card and follow up the next day with a nice note saying you enjoyed meeting them and hope to see them again soon.
4. Take initiative to ask lunch or coffee. Ask the people you meet at receptions to meet you for lunch or coffee to get to know them better. Choose people who are working in jobs that you want someday and ask them how they got where they are and what advice they have. Prepare by reading their bio and having questions ready about their work, their alma mater, family, etc.
5. Find a mentor for longer term relationship. This could be the person you ask to lunch or coffee.
6. Sign up for free resources including email lists, twitter, and facebook. Here is a sample of organizations offering resources, compiled by Peter Redpath:
American Enterprise Institute
America’s Future Foundation
Conservatism on Tap (Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s DC Alumni Chapter)
Conservative Women’s luncheon sponsored by Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute at The Heritage Foundation
Federalist Society (monthly DC Lawyers luncheon, Young Lawyers Chapter cocktail receptions, Practice Group events at the National Press Club, Capitol Hill Chapter luncheons and evening receptions)
It’s First Friday monthly happy hours
Leadership Institute (monthly Wednesday wake-up club breakfasts, weekend training schools and monthly happy hours)
Young Republicans (DC, Arlington/Fairfax, etc.)
Banquets and national conferences like CPAC, ,Values Voters, Americans for Prosperity’s Defending the Dream Summit, Federalist Society’s annual National Lawyers Convention, Faith & Freedom Conference, Right Online, etc.
7. Stay in touch with the AFF, IHS, and AEI staff. We are here to help you!
If you are a student or intern, you can start your networking now. Read this advice.
Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation.
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