Hannah Phillips is a rising junior at Harvard College pursuing a major in Government and a Secondary in English. This summer she is an IOP Director’s Intern for Emily’s List. Follow her on twitter @hannahphp, and check out #interncity.
“This town runs on networking”, my Government seminar teacher told me when I asked how I could make the most of my summer internship in Washington D.C. “Meet other interns.”
‘Networking’ has connotations of insincerity. When someone is described as ‘networky’, it is rarely a compliment. ‘Networkers’ are selfish, suited up, overly-ambitious young people who strike up a conversation with any influential person with whom they come into contact. Right?
Not necessarily. As I am sure you’ve been told, real networking is—and should be—relationship building. Networkers should be sincere, good conversationalists, and, most importantly, willing to help others.
As students trying to enter the professional world, we are often told to ‘network.’ Most of the time we are advised to build relationships with existing professionals, such as an internship supervisor. We’re told to do any and every task, ask them about their career, ask them about their kids. Make a memorable impact on the person who could one day get you a job.
While this is excellent advice, what is often missing from the dialogue is networking with your peers. What do we say the best thing about college is? The other students. We thrive on meeting people our age who have interesting life experiences and who are going to make a difference in the world. Similarly, the best thing about your internship can be the other interns.
Last summer I interned for a campaign. When I walked into the Elizabeth Warren for Senate headquarters, I had no idea that I would meet some of my best friends. The West Wing references, national anthem sing-alongs, and late-night discussions on Facebook Chat lasted beyond the door knocking of the summer and hugging on election night in November.
I am even currently living with a friend I met last summer, and another campaign friend crashed on our couch when he was in between Craigslist sublets. These friendships will last a long time, even till that day when we get paid to work in politics. In fact, a few months ago a co-intern texted me saying he had been offered a job on a campaign but couldn’t take it, and asked ‘who do we know who might be interested?’ Networking at its finest.
This summer, I moved to ‘Intern City.’ Yes, Washington D.C. But, more specifically, the section of the EMILY’s List office where most of the interns sit. On my first day, the interns who had been there for a few days seemed to be very close. They talked about the hashtag that they were determined to make a trend, laughed at inside jokes (something about having a mayor of Intern City) and they knew where everything was. (Apparently the other side of the office was known as the ‘suburbs.’) I felt a little intimidated. But remembering the experience from last summer, I leaned in. I asked my fellow interns to socialize outside of work. Since then, I have become a fully-fledged resident—and cabinet member—of Intern City. We’ve bonded. Our hashtag is trending (at least among the EMILY’s List Digital Team). We have regular themed lunches, and spend time together outside of work. In the future (closer than we might think) these are the people who are going to stand up in a state or federal legislature and defend women’s rights. And maybe they’ll ask me to help them.
Network with your supervisors by all means, but don’t forget to build relationships with your fellow interns. The person who will be there for you in the future professionally and personally is not someone you talked to for twenty minutes at a networking event and to whom you gave your business card or even someone who sat in the corner office during your internship who you made copies for. It will be the person who sat next to you for the whole summer who you helped. Maybe you showed them a trick on Microsoft Excel, read over their memo they had worked really hard on, or even offered personal advice about their terrible break-up over a post-work happy hour. The people you meet on your internship now will be your friends and colleges for years to come.
‘Lean in’ to your ‘intern city.’