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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Northwestern chapter.

Networking. It’s the magic word, the secret to success, the key to fortune, fame and happiness. Right? 

Sure, but let’s back up for a second. What IS networking, and why is it deemed so important by society? Networking is essentially just a fancy, specific word that means communicating. I could spend hours telling you why proper communication is the real key to life (hello, communication major here), but for now let’s just assume that you’re on board with my assessment that positive communication is a good thing.

Now that we know that networking is about communicating with people, it’s important to take a look at the “key to writing a good paper” handbook from our 8th grade English teachers: who, what, when, where, and why. 

The “who” of networking can be anyone and everyone – the great thing about it is that anyone at any stage of life can do it. In school, it’s all about making relationships with teachers and professors; one great professor remembering you out of their 100 students that semester could mean an internship opportunity down the line, or maybe your high school English teacher’s college roommate’s sister is in journalism and can get you an interview. By building a network of people that you know and maintaining positive relationships with them, you now have access to each of those individuals’ networks as well. Sometimes it’s all about who you know – two resumes of two 4.0 students could cross the desk of a hiring manager and if that manager remembers one of those students from a job fair, guess who’s getting the interview? 

Networking opportunities arise far more often than you might think – it’s certainly not limited to job fairs or traditional “networking events;” often, it comes from simply being a social human (totally easier said than done – a skill I am working to improve every single day). Next time you’re at a party, start making conversations with people – maybe they’re the president of a nationally recognized advertising agency and will invite you to come shadow them for a day (yes, that has happened to me); maybe their best friend has an in at your favorite company, or maybe you have their dream job and it will make their day that you found them and started a conversation.

As for the why – why do we network? In a nutshell, we network to find people who can help further our careers and goals as well as people whose goals we can contribute to. The idea of a “network” is that if you decide to quit your job at a publishing company tomorrow in favor of becoming a marine biologist, maybe you know someone who can help get your foot in the door. Or, if you’re traveling to a foreign country alone on a business trip, you have a friend whose cousin lives in the area and would love to meet you for coffee. Plus, professional benefits aside, networking is basically just making friends! Having people in your corner far beyond the few friends that you are able to see on a regular basis can be a strong step towards a happy, fulfilling life.

By breaking down networking into the idea of simply talking with people and making connections based on your own personal experiences, it can seem a lot less intimidating and can be easier to take the first step. If all else fails, just start a collection of business cards – exchange them with everyone you can, and you never know whose name you might remember down the line that you’d like to have a conversation with, and that way their information will already be right there at your disposal.

Gif Courtesy of Giphy

Katrina Hicks

Northwestern '19