You networked to seal your internship, and now it’s time to network at your internship.
“Networking is a skill that anyone can learn,” Dr. Tom Denham, a career counselor and owner of Careers In Transition LLC in Albany, New York, said. He believes networking should be students’ number one priority. “It’s about building relationships,” he added. Wise words, doc.
Here are 16 networking strategies you can practice at any internship.
1. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know
Research your new company and see if anyone looks familiar. Maybe a writer you enjoy writes for the publishing house where you’re interning or an alumnus from your school works at the firm where you’re applying. Besides showing that you are knowledgeable about the company, this could get you an introduction with said people.
2. Meet all the people
Meet everyone from the CEO (if possible) to the janitors. This gives you the whole picture of the company. Penn State senior Peter Waldron is currently enrolled in a six-month cooperative education program with Advance Testing in New York. He said he knows that in a competitive program, he needs to make a lasting impression on his colleagues. “I try to talk to heads of my department. Whether it’s talking about my classes or grades, I just try to myself known,” he said.
3. Stay clear of the naysayers
This applies to internship veterans and first timers. An internship should be a learning opportunity, not a pity party with the Negative Nancy of the office. If a person you work with continuously starts negative conversations about the company, stay clear of them. Plug your ears with your fingers and sing, “Lalalala, I can’t hear you,” if you have to. Surroudning yourself with negativity is a waste of your time and could hold you back during the short amount of time you have there.
4. Find a mentor
“A mentor can offer great advice and connections,” Denham said. “[They] have an inside view on the company.” While a mentor from within your company can introduce you to a broader range of employees, you can also receive mentoring through your university’s career center. Denham suggests talking to advisors throughout an internship, but few students take advantage of their expertise. Don’t be inimidated. “All they want to do is help you,” Denham said.
5. Embrace the small talk
Engaging in small talk might be awkward at times, but it lets others know that you are attentive and want to have human contact in the workplace. “Grabbing a morning coffee is a perfect way to go about this,” Denham said. Asking questions about someone’s night or weekend plans is also an easy way to start a conversation. Like The Smiths said, “I am human and I need to be loved/Just like everybody else does.”
6. Keep a descriptive list of contacts
Upon meeting new employees, write down their name, position at the company and a little description about them such as, “Jane Smith, executive director, tall with curly, blonde hair.” This will prevent mini panic attacks from forgetting a person’s name at a meeting and help you remember them in the future. Just don’t give an ominous laugh while jotting their info down. That tends to freak people out.
7. Turn your resume into an elevator pitch
Most people at your internship have not seen your resume and know nothing about you. Break down your resume into a 30 second pitch you could give to someone you’re meeting for the first time. Your name, school, major, previous experience and two to three assets work perfectly. Remember to keep it short. You don’t want to be THAT guy who everyone avoid because you talk their ears off.
Not every person or conversation at your internship will interest you. With that said, take care with how you go about talking with coworkers. If they start talking to you about who they think is going to get kicked off America’s Got Talent—which you despise—go with it. Try not to lean your head back and start moaning. The conversation could lead to something you have in common.
9. Get involved
Most internships invite their employees to events throughout the year. “They would introduce us [interns] at meetings and hold picnics,” Penn State senior Lauren Deegan said, having interned as an ORISE research fellow for the past three summers. Attending events shows your interest in the company and your desire to make the most of your internship. Also, special events help you network with other companies and get your hands on those sweet, sweet business cards.
10. Embrace Responsibility
Taking on extra responsibilities moves you up the ladder of influence so that you can showcase your skills to new people. Waldron explained that he does this by traveling to other job sites to do analysis on construction materials. This isn’t the most exciting job, but he said this doesn’t stop him from making himself known in his co-op. “Many a times it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” Waldron said.
11. Make a list of goals
At the beginning of your internship, write down goals for yourself. Do you want to build a portfolio? Do you just want to get a taste for the work place? Denham said most students skip this step in their internships. “Set a goal to how many connections you’ll make or want to make by the end of your internship,” Denham said. Without goals, there is no incentive to accomplish anything.
12. High touch and high tech
Several of Denham’s advising articles focus purely on creating a presence online before you start your internship. “Every college student should get a LinkedIn account. Your online reputation is your reputation,” he said. High touch and high tech is his motto. He said high touch refers to the face-to-face interactions that build relationships and high tech refers to the online presence you’ll need in the workplace. When meeting co-workers, ask them if they have a LinkedIn account and add them to stay connected.
13. Learn as a shadow
At some internships, you might do nothing but observe and learn from an employee’s work. Watch how this person operates and get to know them on a more personal level outside of an office environment. This relationship could give you the mentor you need, and learning skills through observation can teach you on how to instruct others.
14. Interact with fellow interns
You’re not the only college student on the bumpy ride. Ask fellow interns what they like and dislike about their experience. Deegan said that she and other interns would go bowling and set up dates for happy hour after work. “It got everyone to know each other on a more personal level,” she said.
15. Skip the emails
No one wants to respond to peoples’ emails all day. If you’re working on a task that needs more explanation, go find the person who can help you. By initiating a conversation, you can show someone that you aren’t shy to approach unfamiliar people. This is a rare quality that will win you points and get you connected with others in the office.
16. Stay connected online
Social media has rapidly become one of the most popular networking tools, but after internships end, most people don’t use great professional outlets like LinkedIn and Google+. Denham said social media forces students to focus on their opportunity. “[Students] need to create a social media policy. They need to migrate off of Facebook and migrate toward LinkedIn. They need to build a professional profile.”
(Main image via quickmeme.com)