Looking for Internships? Let your network give you a hand
For many college students, the word "networking" conjures up
images of cheesy guys in bad suits passing out business cards
at the company cocktail party. But networking is really about
pooling your resources, talking to people, and being creative.
You never know who can help you out in the future, and the more
people you impress, the better your chances of becoming a
full-time employee after graduation.
Often, the best jobs - and the best internships - never get
publicized. According to the career management firm Drake
Beam Morin, 60 percent to 80 percent of jobs are filled
without ever being advertised. The only way to tap into these
desirable positions is to talk to the people who know about
them. That's where networking comes in. If you get in touch
with everyone you know (and everyone they know), someone will
have heard about a job that's suited to your skills and
While some people may consider your networking efforts a
nuisance, most will be flattered you chose to take advantage
of their expertise. The truth is, most people love to play
the expert. Professionals know that networking is the best
way to find the great jobs. More often than not, the people
you contact will be completely understanding and helpful.
Where do you start?
Here's a step-by-step list of what you should do to get
the most out of your networking efforts:
Identify your internship objectives. Networking is a
great way to gain information, but if you don't know what
you're looking for, neither will your contacts. Think about
the skills you hope to gain and the industries and
companies you would like to explore.
Create your contact database. Compile a list of
everyone you know - friends, your friends' parents, your
parents' friends, your neighbors, other relatives, alumni.
Leave no stone unturned in your quest for one more name -
you never know where it may lead.
Do your homework. Once you receive some names of
people you are (as yet) unacquainted with, learn more about
them. Use magazines, annual reports, and the Internet to
learn all you can about their careers, companies, and
industries. This information will help you relate to your
contacts and come across as educated and interested - and
most of all - worth their time.
Make your move. Traditionally, this meant sending a
letter of introduction via snail mail, but these days a
formally written email is acceptable. In the communication,
explain who you are, your connection with the contact, and
your purpose. Specify that you are asking for an
informational interview to learn about a specific industry,
the internship opportunities available to you, and basic
career advice. Make sure you tell your contact your major
and why you chose to contact him or her. (Here's where you
can use that information you learned about your contacts'
careers and expertise.)
Follow up. Give people a week or two to respond,
then call them to reiterate your interest in speaking with
them. Never expect contacts to call you. If you're
contacting the right people, they're probably too busy to
immediately accommodate you.
Set the tone. During the interview, be clear and
honest about your needs. Otherwise, you're wasting both
your time and your contact's. You're interested in finding
out as much as possible about the field and investigating
internship opportunities. Don't hound your contact for an
internship; rather, seek their advice and experience, and
let them offer the help they're comfortable offering.
Most important: always ask who else you
should talk to.
Send a thank-you note. This common courtesy is the
initial step toward building a long-term relationship.
Maintain connections. Don't alienate your contacts
by calling them only when you're looking for a job. Once
every month or two, drop each contact a note, or meet him
or her for lunch at regular intervals.
Network as you go
By all means, don't stop networking - especially once
the internship starts. You never know who can help you out in
the future, and the more people you impress, the better your
chances of becoming a full-time employee after graduation.
During the internship, your networking will mainly consist of
getting to know people throughout the company, asking them
what they enjoy about their jobs and how they started their
careers, and perhaps seeking their career advice. Show an
interest in their jobs and skills, and chances are, they will
show an interest in you. And of course, collect contact
information for as many people as possible. They may provide
valuable information for that first job search.
Networking takes time, so start early and be patient. If you
put positive and earnest energy into finding a great
opportunity, you won't be disappointed. That exciting
internship will be yours.
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