Professional relationships are a key component of career success. In addition increasing your access to new career opportunities, broad professional networks also allow you to tap into expertise when faced with a challenge in your existing role. Spending some time cultivating new relationships and establishing rapport with those working around you during your internship will allow you to understand the organization better, instill more confidence in your work and amplify your contribution to the organization; not to mention increasing your chances of future internships or post-grad positions. Below are a few ways that you can increase the value of your internship through networking.
1) Networking within your working group. Whether attending team meetings, joining in on social outings, or grabbing coffee with aco-worker, spending time getting to know the people you work with most closely is a great way to settle into a new organization. Learning more about the culture of your team, the ways they work together to achieve goals and how the group’s work impacts the organization not only increases your contribution, but will help you glean information about the environment, work styles and projects you’ll want to pursue in the future. This type of networking tends to have a bit less formality and can provide the deepest insight on what makes your team successful (or not).
2) Networking throughout the organization. Sometimes this can take on a more formal structure as in my past experience on a cross-functional team in which any new additions to our team were scheduled to spend time during their orientation with our functional counterparts in order to understand how our teams worked collectively. However, many organizations do not have this type of structure built into their orientation process, so it becomes incumbent on you, the intern, to reach out and meet the people and departments your team interacts with regularly. A request for an introductory meeting can open up a new relationship and a wealth of information that will prove helpful during and after your internship. Some good questions to ask in these meetings include: How does their work interact with yours? How can you make that interaction easier or more productive? What are the key outcomes that would indicate to them a successful internship?
3) Networking beyond the organization. Not often a possibility early in the internship, once you’ve proven your abilities and established a level of trust, access to outside contacts or organizations may open up to you. This is an excellent chance to understand the broader impact that the organization effects on their community, market or constituencies. Take advantage of any opportunity to sit in on a client meeting, answer a constituent’s request or meet with a partnering agency. And don’t hesitate to ask for an introduction and a brief history on the relationship to better prepare you to make a good first impression.
Once you’ve established a rapport with someone, be sure to request a connection on LinkedIn so you can stay in-touch and cultivate the relationship by sharing pertinent news or introductions to others in your network that are relevant. It’s often not the immediate or obvious connection that will impact your career the most… but more likely, it’s the people in whom you’ve invested time and effort to get to know that can affect the strongest influence in your future.
NOTE: For information on establishing a strong LinkedIn profile, access our website and LinkedIn-provided resources here.