A great internship is full of potential for your career. For starters, an internship can provide a direct path to full-time employment, but this isn’t necessarily a guarantee. Something you can always control is the way in which you interact with others during your internship experience. Today, we’re going to talk about how you can use your internship to build a professional network. Let’s begin.
We talk about conducting research a whole lot, and that’s because it’s one of the best things you can do when preparing for a job search, an interview, or an internship. Research can greatly enhance your knowledge of a company, its values, and workplace culture. In addition to this, you can also learn a lot about a company’s leadership team, and in some cases, its entire staff.
When preparing for an internship, take note of the people who work at the company. Next, take a look at their LinkedIn and social media profiles, keeping an eye out for information such as their title, professional achievements, and interests. In certain cases, this information might also be included on the company’s website. With this new information you can prepare any questions you might have, and identify any interests you have in common with members of the leadership team.
When it comes to networking during your internship, knowing a little about the company’s leadership and employees will help you to more easily approach them. For example, if you find a common interest with someone, it can be a great ice-breaker. Further, your shared interest will strengthen your bond with that person, and you’ll be far more memorable to them. This is invaluable when it comes to networking, so always take the time to conduct research before the internship starts.
Building off our last entry on the list, you should come up with some questions to ask the leadership team and staff during the course of your internship. These questions will vary depending on your chosen field and the company you’re interning for, but one aspect of these questions should remain the same—they should be questions that start a conversation, and that have answers that provide you with as much information as possible.
The best questions are ones that don’t have a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Remember, you’re talking to experienced professionals who have likely been through many trials and tribulations along the way, so you should seek to gain as much knowledge from them as possible. Questions like “What challenges did you face early in your career?” or “What made you get into this career?” are great, and can provide valuable insight as well as inspiration.
The key to leveraging such questions as networking tools is to listen carefully. If someone is going to take the time to answer your questions, give them all your attention in that moment. They’ll take note of your genuine interest, and will more than likely be happy to assist you long into your career. In some cases, this might lead to a sort of mentorship that you can rely on as you take your next steps.
Connect with Other Interns
Along with the leadership team and staff, you’ll likely be working with a bunch of other interns. When it comes to networking with other interns, it’s all about who you can teach and who you can learn from. You might find that certain individuals face the same challenges you do, or that someone else is particularly skilled in an area that you need to work on. Helping each other is a great way to build lasting professional bonds, which might come into play later on in your career.
Here, it’s important to remember that everyone is in the same boat, so don’t be afraid to communicate. If you’re having trouble communicating with other interns while performing your tasks, you can take advantage of any breaks you might have. Try asking other interns out to lunch, where you can spend time sharing your goals, interests, excitement, and questions. The point is, you shouldn’t seek to build your network using only members of the leadership team, because it’s great to have connections with people who are growing along with you.
Stay in Touch
All that hard work you put in getting to know other people and asking questions won’t mean anything unless you keep in touch. Yes friends, in order for your professional network to work for you, you have to maintain it. A great way to do this is to follow up with senior staff members after the internship has ended, asking them if they have any further advice or comments about your performance.
Perhaps most simply, make sure you add any new connections on LinkedIn. Here, you can interact with your network in simple ways while also reminding them that you’re still active and present. Another great way to keep in touch is to invite members of your network to events that you plan to attend. Better yet, you can invite members of your network to your own events.
Lastly, be proactive when it comes to building your network. It can be tough to make that initial approach when you’re first starting out, but you won’t get any results if you don’t try. The great Michael Scott once said “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”…or was that Wayne Gretzky? Nevertheless, it’s true—you can never know where a conversation will lead unless you take the chance. With a little effort, you can turn your internship into a networking extravaganza.