“Networking is the No. 1 unwritten rule of success in business.” – Sallie Krawcheck
Aside from the experience and skills that you will gain from the actual work that you do during your internship, the people that you work with and work for are some of the most valuable resources and best ways to learn. Networking with the people around you is a great chance to learn about other jobs you might not be doing or gain some valuable life advice that you can apply moving forward in your career. After all, these are the people who were in your same shoes at some point in their life. They can offer a completely different point of view from what you can at this point and time regardless of whether they are 2 or 20 years older than you.
When it comes to networking during the internship, there are some things that I can you that will make this intimidating experience easier.
First and foremost, pick the people that you want to connect with. Maybe there is a certain job that you’re interested in or they took a unique path in life that you want to learn about, or maybe it’s as simple as they went to the same university that you did.
Once you ID who you’re going to reach out to, seek them out when they’re grabbing some coffee or walking in the hall and just introduce yourself and establish how you heard about them or something that you noticed. After you start building up the rapport with them, invite them to get coffee or lunch so you guys can continue your chat. It doesn’t hurt if you mention that you are interested to learn more about their job or maybe their career experiences. This will express a sense of genuine interest and it will show that you’re not only trying to connect with them out of selfish reasons.
Once you are finally sitting down together and talking, make sure that you are being an active listener. A helpful thing to keep in mind is, the more you talk, the less you learn. I always try to prep a couple of questions beforehand so the conversation doesn’t die out and I make sure that there is a good mix of topics. Some questions about their career and past experiences are good, ask them about their interests and hobbies, and anything else that you may have found interesting about them. All in all keep things appropriate, be yourself, and be genuine.
After all of that is said in done, the last thing to do is maintain the relationship. Maybe get lunch again, ask them to shadow their job for an hour, or even stop by their work space to say hi and ask what’s new. Keep in mind that this relationship also doesn’t end as soon as the internship does. Networking is like gardening. You plant the first seeds during those initial conversations and everything after is all about fostering and growing those plants (relationships). If you don’t keep them up you will never know what could have come from that connection down the line.
I kept in touch with all of the people that I worked with during my internship last summer and to this day they are still people that I reach out to for career advice, ask for help on a work problem, and hang out with after a long work week. I can’t even begin to describe all of the ways that my connections I’ve made through networking has helped me. If there is one thing that you take away from any of the articles that I write, let it be that networking is a talent and a skill that will take you far, but in order for you to be good at it, you need to practice and maintain it. As they say, “use it or lose it.”
Cheers and Go Bucks!