03 Aug Using an Internship To Professionally Network
written by Charlie Fletcher
Internships are gateways to personal and professional growth. You learn new skills, get hands-on work experience, and further define your career path. But internships are also fantastic networking opportunities.
You can meet a lot of people who can propel your career forward and help you blossom in your personal life. However, using an internship to network professionally requires intention and strategy. Here’s how to connect meaningfully with people and make the most out of your internship as a networking opportunity.
Make the Best Internship Choice
You’ll have a much better networking experience with your internship if you make sure it’s the right internship choice, to begin with. It’s tough to grow relationships in an environment in which you aren’t confident or that is full of people with whom you don’t mesh. On the other hand, when you choose an internship at a solid company that welcomes interns and is prepared to help them flourish, developing great relationships through networking is seamless.
Think about what you want from an internship before deciding on one. It may be helpful to use a mind map to define your networking and career goals. For example, you may create a mind map of characteristics you want to look for in an internship when networking as a Gen Z individual. Then, research internship opportunities that can help you achieve your specific goals.
Also, be sure these opportunities are at companies with healthy, positive company culture. This way, your internship can possibly lend you a meaningful, helpful mentor.
Find a Mentor at Your Workplace
Stepping into an internship can be intimidating. From not knowing anyone to taking on work you may not be familiar with to wanting to make a good impression, all of it can be a lot of pressure. As a result, many interns fail to take full advantage of their opportunities.
That said, finding a mentor at your workplace can be helpful. They can be a huge source of support and guidance through all of the above. For instance, a mentor can introduce you to others in the workplace so that you feel welcomed. They can also help you grow confident in your skills and abilities to make the best impression on company leaders.
The first step in finding a mentor at your internship is figuring out what kind of mentor you want, whether that is a peer mentor or someone with more experience in the company. Next, define what you want from your mentorship. Then, approach those who fit the type of mentor style that you want and have the potential to help you flourish. Ask if they’d be interested in mentoring you in the most genuine way possible.
Find Your Voice
If you truly want to use your internship as a professional networking opportunity, you must find your voice and use it. You need a bit of confidence to meet people who can help you grow professionally and flourish personally.
Share your experience and perspective whenever you can. Contribute meaningfully to group meetings, brainstorming sessions, and company events. Also, do your best work. When you excel in your role, that speaks for you. Even if you are more introverted, you can find an internship environment that values your contribution no matter how “loud” it is.
Ask for More Responsibility
You can fast-track the growth of your professional network through your internship by asking for more responsibility. The more responsibility you take on, the more interactions are facilitated. And that makes networking more impactful.
When your manager or another company leader asks for volunteers for a project or task, jump on the opportunity. Even if your manager isn’t actively looking for interns who want to take on more responsibility, it shouldn’t stop you from asking. If you see a need, ask your manager for the chance to meet it.
Get To Know Employees and Fellow Interns
Many interns spend the majority of their time networking with upper management. However, they’re missing a huge opportunity to build their professional networks when they don’t focus on creating relationships with employees and fellow interns.
Employees and fellow interns may not be able to give you a permanent position at the company once an internship is over. They can:
- Inspire creative thinking and decision-making;
- Help you define your career path;
- Assist you with personal endeavors;
- Make your time at the company more fun;
- Assure you you’re a valuable part of the team;
- Help you with work-related challenges and questions;
- Become lifelong friends.
Also, the same people that are your peers now are likely to advance within the company. Learning their communication style is crucial to gauge whether or not the culture is a good fit, and networking with them now will keep you top-of-mind if and when they advance to a hiring position.
Get in Good With Upper Management
One of the most challenging things about an internship is developing genuine relationships with upper management and company leaders. Sometimes, they just don’t have the time. And other times, you just don’t cross paths with them often.
However, your networking efforts need to include getting to know those in upper management in whatever capacity you can. This is especially important because if you end up loving the company and the work you did, upper management may decide to offer you a permanent position.
Do your best to meet with managers regularly. If you can get in the room with the C-Suite, do so. Open the line of communication face-to-face, via email, over the phone, and even by connecting on LinkedIn. Don’t be afraid to make yourself known among those that seem out of reach.
Meet Someone New Every Day
It’s easy to interact with the same people every day because you’ve grown close and comfortable with them. However, the whole point of networking is to meet new people.
Instead of going to your internship and engaging solely with the people you know and love there, make it a point to meet someone new every day. Visit a new department. Sit with new people at lunch every other day. And collaborate with interns and workers you haven’t before. The more people you meet, the more opportunities you have to network, learn, and grow.
Using an internship to professionally network is a brilliant idea. Be sure you’ve chosen the right internship opportunity. Then, use the rest of the tips above to develop meaningful relationships through networking and make the most out of your internship experience.
Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer passionate about workplace equity, and her published works cover sociology, politics, business, education, health, and more. Read more here.