Somehow over the course of time, the term “networking” has devolved into a dirty word – not to the level of a curse word or slur, of course, but it is often seen as a somewhat crude word. You don’t want to be accused of doing it, but you know you need to in order to advance your career. Instead of a term to indicate the process of making connections, of professionals helping one another out, of sharing information, it is often a term that indicates a user, someone out for himself or herself, someone who doesn’t care about authentic relationships. Happily, if we have learned anything from the interviews we have participated in during this trip, it’s that networking can be an extremely positive thing, and in fact, is usually the source of someone’s professional success. Networking shouldn’t be negatively stigmatized. It prevents people from utilizing it for their own benefit, and perhaps even more importantly, it prevents a culture of helping one another within the professional world. If you still feel uncomfortable with the concept of networking, then think of it this way: by you participating in networking, you are in fact helping out others; it is an altruistic endeavor. Networking can have personal benefit, obviously, but it can also be a way to help out others. Consider this scenario: someone you know really wants to get into wildlife conservation, but they just don’t know how. They know that if they apply to some of the companies they have heard about, their application will most likely get lost in a sea of other interested applicants. Luckily, one of your mom’s clients happens to be WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature). She is good friends with her client, as they have been working together for the past 8 years. You tell your friend about this connection, however far-reaching it may seem. They take you up on your offer, and you connect your friend with your parent, who will in turn connect your friend to the worker at WWF, who can point your friend in the right direction for obtaining a job at WWF. The WWF employee will be happy to do this, because it helps the company more quickly find a good worker who has been vouched for by a trusted source. (They will also be happy to do this, because someone in the past did the same thing for them, and they feel the should “pay it forward.”) It’s simple, good networking, and nothing about this scenario is underhanded, self-serving, or shallow. Obviously, networking has the potential to be a tool for those who are out for themselves. But when this happens, networking isn’t being used for its full potential. Instead of thinking “it’s all about who you know,” think, “it’s all about connections.” Connecting with people via networking inherently means, “give some, take some.” It a symbiotic relationship, and it’s the axel grease of the work world.