Networking for interns can be daunting at the start, especially when the general sentiment seems to portray networking as either indiscriminate and shameless data gathering, or a niche for extroverts.However, networking can and should be a simple, natural and sincere process of mingling and making new friends, which may develop into professional relationships.
Below are some tips you can use from the first day of your internship to network with the people around you.
1. Find out what inspires them
Ask sincere questions!
People have different motivations to do the same thing. You can start by asking what their roles are in the company and what they like about the job. Active listening is just as important as asking questions: people will realize you care.
2. Get to know them on a personal level
Knowing their habits, hobbies and interests outside work goes a long way in developing and nurturing friendship
Starting a professional relationship is not difficult; however, nurturing and sustaining that relationship is. Getting to know people as individuals with background, habits, routines, likes and dislikes, will give you insights into their unique personalities and strengthen your relationship with them beyond the office.
If possible, offer to help people with tasks both in and out of the office. I once introduced my supervisor to Glints after she had shared with me that the company needed more staff and we totally broke the ice after that!
3. Don’t forget to tell them about yourself
Being comfortable talking about yourself can be a charm factor
Start with your supervisor, who would most likely be spending the most time with you. Share your interests, hobbies, what you care about, and your hopes and expectations. If your supervisor asks you what you expect out of the internship, it means he/she wants to hear what you have to contribute to the discussion and the internship experience as a whole. So don’t be afraid to say what you hope to get out of the internship.
Here are some suggestions as to what you can share with the company’s employees:
- Your unique skills, i.e. producing electronic music, drawing, cooking, etc. I happened to have the most working knowledge about making good Vietnamese coffee (not in the nasty intern-or-slave way), so the coffee routine turned into cultural exchange in the office!
- What you hope to learn from the internship
- What you learn in school
- What you want to be in the future (very useful for potential professional contacts)
- What you do in your spare time
4. After-office-hours outing: the best thing since sliced bread
You’ll learn the most about people when they’re not at work
Catching your supervisor, the CEO,… “off-guard” is both interesting and helpful in getting to know them beyond the “stern” figure they are often associated with. If you have a rocking idea for a division/team/company retreat, don’t be afraid to share it with your supervisor. A movie and team dinner, BBQ or picnic will do it just right.
5. It’s all about timing and substance
Treat everyone as new friends whom you’ve yet to get used to. Grab the opportunity to get to know them but choose the right timing; don’t disturb their routines or disrupt their busy workflow.
Being sincere is key- ask meaningful questions and listen actively. Take the initiative to develop friendship so long as you do not neglect the tasks and responsibilities assigned to you.
Unless you’re planning to continue working for the same company on a part-time or flexible basis, keeping in touch after your internship ends can be difficult. Start with following the company’s LinkedIn account and subsequently connecting with the employees. Keeping in touch is important, but relying on social media alone can put people off. So if you have their personal numbers, do suggest hanging out with the team once in a while. Don’t hesitate to offer help if you can as well.
Networking can be an enjoyable part of your internship experience. With the right mindset and sincere intentions, the professional relationships you make during the internship will open doors you otherwise would never be aware of.