“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” That is the motto that best describes my week. Before coming to Washington, DC with the CAUSE Leadership Academy, one of my least favorite things was networking.
The idea of having to present yourself to someone in a couple of sentences and hope to form a relationship from an elevator pitch has always intimidated me. However, I have come to learn that networking does not always have to be awkward or forced, in fact half of the time it happens without even realizing it.
After being in DC for a couple of weeks now, I decided I wanted to reach out to people whose jobs I wanted to learn more about; after all, the worst that could happen is an unanswered email.
I started by reaching out to the President and CEO of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute who kindly replied to my email and agreed to meet me for coffee this upcoming week. In a similar manner, the President of the DC Chapter of the USC Alumni Association was open to meeting with me and invited me to a dinner with other alumni around the area.
At first, I thought both circumstances might have been an outcome of the USC Alumni Network, but soon I realized that people are willing to help if you are not afraid to ask.
During the Senate Latino Summit we attended this week, Cid Wilson, President and CEO of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, told me that in everything I do I should, “Be bold and never settle for just doing okay.” The people that we meet on a weekly basis all echo the same sentiments and always explain the importance of not being afraid to network and meet new people.
I guess the moment I decided to get over my fear was when I was standing a couple of steps away from Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. I had the choice to either approach him or walk away wishing I had met him. I made my decision and asked one of his staff members if I could take a picture with the Secretary, and he kindly told me I was welcomed to do so.
I approached Secretary Castro and introduced myself as an intern for one of his offices. He then started to ask me about my background and my future aspirations. Having looked up to him as a role model, I was extremely nervous and surprised at the conversation we were having. We held a meaningful talk that concluded with him telling me he wanted to get to know me better. One of his staff members came to me after the event and ensured me that I would have a chance to meet with the Secretary again before the summer ended.
Needless to say, after the range of events that I experienced this week I have learned that in the world of politics you can’t be afraid. I arrived in Washington, DC four weeks ago and was intimidated by the big names and endless networking events. Today, through the CAUSE Friday Leadership Sessions and the people I have met, I understand that you will only regret the chances that you don’t take.