Last week I read a post from one of my favorite bloggers, Ryan Stephens, who wrote a piece called “How to be an Awesome Intern”. My long ass response to his post suggested that networking is critical for the intern. This long comment I shared with Ryan and his readers inspired me to turn it into a full blown post on COTJ. Do yourself a favor and stop by Ryan’s blog, not only is he a good guy but he also loves Dexter and LOST as much as I do.
What is the true purpose of an internship? Money? Online college credits? Securing a job before graduation? Strong arguments can be made for each, but I think internships are meant for building up your resume and experience. Most organizations fail hard in running an internship program, and have trouble identifying/keeping their top interns. Ryan agrees with this and says, “Don’t limit yourself to the company you’re interning with. Keep building your brand and exploring other options.” Well put.
Maybe you won’t rack up 15 internships like Lauren Berger AKA “The Intern Queen” was able to do in her college career (yes, she seriously took on 15 internships), but your experience will prove invaluable to you in the future, and the contacts you make are critical to your future. In her post, “Why students should take unpaid internships”, Lauren says that she’s kept in contact with all of her fellow interns and program coordinators through the years (from all 15 internships), and those contacts have helped her land jobs and interviews. So, she will agree with me when I say that networking is absolutely critical for your success as an intern.
So, how does an intern use networking to effectively boost their career?
Step 1: Create a LinkedIn account immediately
Given that the company probably won’t hire you on, you’ll need a professional way to stay connected. Add co-workers, other interns, program coordinators, even clients/vendors to your LinkedIn contacts. I’ve read that 80% of organizations use LinkedIn for hiring, so you can imagine how important it is to begin building your contacts ASAP. If you feel particularly brave, ask a few people for recommendations of your work. Most people are happy to oblige, and this will make you look like a rock star to future employers. Avoid Facebook/Myspace if possible.
Step 2: Get involved
You don’t need to be the most skilled to get noticed. Get involved in projects, ask questions, and find an influential employee of the company that may offer guidance. Bust your ass and volunteer to be on as many projects as possible. Not only will you increase your learning, but you’ll meet more people to add to your LinkedIn account!
Step 3: Happy Hour!
Hang out with your co-workers and fellow interns when possible. A friendship to back up your professional relationship is always helpful. I realize some interns may not be of age to enjoy happy hour drinks, so look for other ways to hang out. Go to dinner with a group of other interns, or maybe go to a baseball game. Make it a point to at least build a friendship with at least one other person.
How have internships helped you in your career? Have you kept in touch with any former co-workers or fellow interns?