I am spending my last semester away from Emory, my home university, to take on the nation’s capital. I have been here in D.C. for about six weeks now and I can already say that I have learned so much. Being here has not been exactly what I had anticipated or expected, but it has been an unimagined opportunity to learn lessons that I do not think I would have learned in this way anywhere else in the world.

As I anticipate and prepare to take the next step in my life and possibly the first steps in my career in just a few months, it has been a privilege to be surrounded by so many young, engaged people constantly taking steps and making moves to further their own careers and lives in the many directions they desire. It has been a reassuring experience for me.

Throughout my college career I have heard several times (so much so that I have started to preach to others) of how important the connections and relationships you make are. I am seeing firsthand here in D.C. that this could not be any closer to the truth. The word for it here is networking (well, I suppose that is the word for it most places, but I digress).

In college, we hear the word constantly from our career advisors, professors, and even our peers at times, but seldom do we ever actually see true networking in action. We rarely have related experiences that prove just how important networking is to our future, aspirations, and lives more generally. Often times we are intimidated by the people who are in the space and capacity that we aspire to, but those should be the very people that we make an effort to connect with and learn from. Most of them are eager to mentor or just share their knowledge and advice.

You can never really be sure of exactly where you will end up and at times you will find that the connections that you have made with least likely of people may be the most helpful and influential in your future. But know also: some of the connections you make through your established network will enable you to help others down the road. You never know whose boss you might be someday.