Monday, July 25, 2011

Networking: Guy-with-a-famous-uncle

A word that most college juniors know, some enterprising sophomores might know, and certainly all seniors SHOULD KNOW is: networking. 
It’s a big, fancy word, and I spent most of my college career letting it intimidate me until I realized that networking actually means schmoozing, or rather schmoozing-and-remembering-all-their-names-so-I-can-later-use-them-for-a-potential-job.

In short, networking means building a web of wasta, which is an Arab term I learned while abroad that essentially means “connections”.  So networking means building a web of connections. Duh, some of you are thinking. Net-working = working to build a net that surrounds and supports you. Yep, you’re so smart.

Once I figured out what the term meant, I quickly discovered that my network was…well, lame.  Rather than an interconnected web joining numerous people and careers together, my “web” seemed to be…me, and one woman I had talked with at CNN.

I believe geometrists would call that a “line.”  Not a web.

How to fix this?  I wasn’t quite sure. All I knew was that it was Christmas break and my sister wanted me to go with her to her college-town for New Years. Fun with the sis + dancing all night + beer = Aftan not thinking about her network.

“You never know, hon,” my father winked at me, “you might meet some nice young man in a bar.”
“Yeah, Dad,” I replied, rolling my eyes. “I’m going to meet boyfriend material in a bar in Montana on New Years.”  I’m sure that is THE NIGHT all the classy guys go out to find all the classy girls.

My dad grinned. “Well, you’re probably right, but maybe at the very least you’ll meet someone with a job opportunity.”

“Yeah, Dad, maybe.” Again, it's a bar on New Year's.

So the Sis and I end up at a favorite bar with some favorite friends.  The Sis is super popular, so all these guys swarm us competing for her attention.  I sit back a little bit and nurse my beer, watching the show. One of her admirers has brought his roomies, and they look as out of place as I, so I strike up conversation with the one closest to me.

This guy looks a little younger, maybe a sophomore.  I’m sure he hasn’t even thought about his network.  We do the basic chit-chat, drink a couple beers. He tells me his major, his hometown (an East Coaster), what he wants to do.  I share the same.

“Wait,” he says when I explain my aspirations and my study-abroad career. “You want to be an international journalist, and you love the Middle East?”  Yep.  “You should meet my uncle.  That’s what he does.”

I stare.  I slide my chair a little bit closer.

“Yeah,” the guy goes on. “He’s a journalist and lives in New York.  When he was covering events in Afghanistan he got captured by the Taliban.  He got released last year and wrote a book about it.  His name is Jere Van Dyk.”

The guy has just become The-Guy-with-a-Famous-Uncle.

My network may have just expanded.

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