No matter how old you are networking can be scary. Putting yourself out there to make connections can freak out anyone, the trick to it all is knowing how to network efficiently. However, sometimes LinkedIn and mixers just don’t cut it for college students, and that’s where the networking trip comes into place. What better way to make an imPRession than in person? This spring break, Assistant Junior Director Melaina Lewis made an imPRession in D.C. while on an individual networking trip to scope out the D.C. area and network with D.C. PR professionals. Want to know how to coordinate your own networking trip? Read our interview with our fabulous Assistant Junior Director herself.
Q: Why did you want to plan your own networking trip?
A: I’ve always loved D.C. It’s one of my top 2 places I want to live post grad. I was trying to think of where I had the most connections and DC won over Charlotte, N.C. I want to work for nonprofit or healthcare PR, and DC is a hub for those PR sectors.
Q: What were your first steps to planning?
A: I reached out to my Bobcat network and made some cold connections. I knew it was going to be harder to do the trip if I stayed at a hotel, so I reached out to Sienna Tomko who was recently hired at Children’s National and am staying with her.
Q: How did you reach out to the Bobcat network?
A: LinkedIn was a big one. I connected with Judy Dashiell at the National Fisheries Institute through LinkedIn messaging. I also spoke with Daniel Klein, whom works with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance. The rest of the Bobcat network were local connections I already had, and knew their agencies or organizations had offices in D.C. I also reached out to Devin Hughes and he connected me to someone. Sienna also has a huge network, even though she doesn’t believe it, she does. Oddly enough, I have a family friend from my hometown who works in a government department, and she helped me with connections as well.
Q: How long have you been planning this trip?
A: I would say I have been planning this trip for two FULL months. I decided to make the trip right after Christmas break in January. I would suggest plan a networking trip three or four months ahead, so you don’t feel rushed.
Q: Were there any hiccups?
A: Monday was a snow day for the D.C. area. Even the government workers didn’t go into work. So Sienna and I joined a planned snowball fight in Du Pont Circle. I was retweeted by a Washington Post blogger, so that’s exciting.
Q: Would you recommend an individual or group networking trip?
A: Any networking trip is an opportunity and a business card. It is less hectic when you are alone, and you’re guaranteed one-on-one time, unlike in a group setting. Also when you’re doing it individually, you’re tailoring it around whom you want to meet and who has your skill set. I planned my networking trip all around nonprofit and healthcare PR.
Q: You’re a huge Scandal fan. How is that playing into this trip?
A: I get to watch Scandal in the capital this week. That’s really exciting. Walking down the streets, I secretly tell myself I’m Olivia Pope. This is the life Olivia Pope leads.
Q: What is your day-to-day like during this trip?
A: I’m trying each day to meet with 1-2 people, and leave my late afternoons and early evenings open. I want to make sure I’m getting that aspect of living here in the trip. It’s a mix of networking and fun.
Q: Is there anything you would change about this trip?
A: I wish I would’ve started planning earlier. It just felt so rushed and I wanted to expand more of my connections. It’s been a really good trip so I wouldn’t change much.
Interview conducted over Google Hangout. Later in the day, Melaina planned to check out the Georgetown area and visit Georgetown Cupcakes.
Interviewee: Melaina Lewis is a junior studying Strategic Communications with specializations in Global Leadership and Marketing. You can follow Melaina on Twitter at @melaina_lewis.
Interviewer: Kelly Hayes is a senior studying Strategic Communications with specializations in German and Global Leadership. You can follow Kelly on Twitter at @kmshayes.