One of the most crucial aspects of an internship is meeting people and creating relationships with them. Think of the common phrase, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” This holds some truth. You may be brilliant and able to use your intelligence to succeed in your career, but having a personal network of people who are willing to help you is invaluable to expanding your career.
Networking is essentially forming relationships. Through networking, you are building personal connections and a set of business relationships that are genuine and natural. You network every day without knowing it. The key to meeting people and networking in the business world is to be authentic and real. Form relationships with people by finding a common interest. However, this is not your typical friendship, so remember to be professional and keep the conversation topics appropriate. The key to networking is being yourself and being a good listener. Do not interrupt and show interest when the person is speaking. When you begin your internship, you will meet other interns that you will easily form relationships with. This is networking, but this may be more on a friend level. These relationships are more relaxed so ask them about their roles and what they have learned and who they have learned from. Ask them who they recommend for you to meet and be willing to give them a list of people you think would benefit for them to meet. When it comes to upper level management, research them prior to meeting them if you were recommended to talk to them. Know their position and come with a set of questions when you meet them. You should not be playing 20 questions. Let the conversation flow, but have a set of questions you would like to know. Learn about them and ask for insight into their business experiences. Always send a thank you after you meet with anyone. You should also connect with them on LinkedIn.
Once you have formed a set of relationships and a base for your networking, never stop continuing to expand it. The best way to do this is by following the saying, “You should never eat alone.” You should eat lunch with someone every single day during your internship. Whether this be with your fellow interns some days or hopefully current leadership, you should be constantly forming relationships and learning. If you don’t know who to eat with then find out. Ask around and send them an email expressing that you would like to eat lunch together or grab a coffee if they have any free time in order to ask them some questions about their role in the company and valuable business lessons. Nine times out of ten, they will find time to meet with you. The more initiative you show to reach out, the better. When you meet with this person, ask your set of questions and ask them who else they would recommend you meet. Thank them for meeting with you and follow up with an email. Showing appreciation is important.
Finally, the most important person to find during your internship is a mentor. This person may be difficult to find at first, but you must really search for someone you connect with that cares for your personal success and is willing to help you succeed. This should still be a professional relationship, however you will know when you have met this person. He/She will care about your success in the company and will be your most valuable resource in obtaining advice and moving forward in your internship and possibly career. This person will usually be five or more years older than you and have a significant experience within the company. They will know the ins and outs of the business and will be able to guide you through showing their mistakes and successes. Learn from this person and keep this person updated with your work. If anyone you meet with gives you advice on a project or assignment, follow up with an email about how their advice affected the positive outcome and thank them. This is especially important. Make sure the person knows that you valued their advice and by showing that you cared and let them know the outcome, they will be more willing to help in the future.