To further dispel the notion of networking-as-dirty-word, I may be forced to use the F-word. A number of F-words, actually, none of them unseemly, and all crucial to career success.
Let’s start with Facts of Life. The truth is that we all start our adult and professional lives with different networks in place (in part related to our family, how and where we grew up, etc.), and with different levels of skill and confidence in networking. That’s just the way it is. But none of us are stuck with that starting point. Those who come into adulthood well-connected are still going to have to prove their ability and worthiness of those connections, and those with talent and fewer connections are going to have to build their networks on their own.
For everyone, the place to start is with those already in your corner: Friends, Family, Family Friends, and (a key resource here at AU) Faculty (both full-time and adjunct). Get in touch, tell them about your interests, your long-term and/or short-term goals, and see what ideas they have for you.
If that goes well, it will soon be time to reach beyond that circle, to the strangers-to-you they recommend you contact, or to others further afield who may be helpful to you. At that point, you can no longer expect contacts to automatically want to help you in your career exploration or job/internship searching. (Not even if you’re talking to your Uncle Fred‘s oldest friend.)
You’re swimming with the big fish now. But don’t panic! This is simply where another layer of “f-words” comes in: Fact-Finding and Face-Time. (More …)