March 20, 2015

How to Network As an Intern

I have a secret for you: Most people are willing to help students and interns. In fact, interning is a perfect excuse to meet with and learn from as many people in an organization as possible because people will generally be willing to sit down with you, discuss their role and how they got it, and give you advice on reaching your own goals. But, I have another secret for you that may not make you quite as happy: No one is going to make this happen for you (unless you have a really incredible manager, in which case go thank that person immediately).

Photo by Andrew Hitchcock (CC by SA 2.0)
See, if you want to meet with people in the organization where you are interning, you have the perfect excuse to make it happen, but you can't expect anyone to make those introductions or set up those meetings (unless you want a meeting with someone who has an assistant that handles their schedule, but that's not exactly the point here). You have to be bold and do it yourself. Go out of your way to talk to the company's employees, introduce yourself, and ask if you can sit down to talk sometime. People are busy, yes, but if you're polite and respect their time, most people will be willing to make room to answer your questions. Here's how to make the most of your internship:


Make a List 
What departments and roles are you interested in learning about? Make a list of the people you want to talk to and think about what you'd like to learn from the conversation.

Follow the Communication Norm
Does your organization communicate mostly via email? Phone? Is it normal for people to stop by someone's desk to ask them a question? Pay attention to how the people around you work and interact and follow their lead when it comes to approaching your coworkers. Then, use that method to respectfully approach the people you want to meet with. Introduce yourself, tell them what department you are interning in, tell them your major and where you go to school, and tell them you're interested in learning more about what they do. Then ask if you could set up a time to talk. Be gracious and don't act like anyone owes you anything -- they don't.

Come Prepared 
People are busy, so if they've taken the time to sit and talk with you make sure you come prepared. Do some background research on their department's recent successes, this person's role in the company, and take a look at the LinkedIn to get a sense of their background. Prepare a few questions and think about what you want to take away from the meeting.

Follow Up 
Be sure to thank the person within 24 hours. If they've offered you some sort of advice -- like a book to read or someone else to talk to -- make sure you follow up on that action and let them know how helpful it was (even if it wasn't that helpful).
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