Networking at Your Summer Internship

Professional schmoozing is one of the keys to turning a summer gig into a permanent job. Because networking (done right) leaves a great impression on the employer, it can lead to a permanent job offer or a handy recommendation. Here’s how:

Beef Up Your Memory. When summer interns bump into the same high-level manager on their way to get coffee the manager will be a lot more impressed if the potential employee remembers something about them, says Anna Mok, a Strategic Relationships partner at Deloitte & Touche. Mok suggests that interns should put in the effort to remember anecdotes and names of co-workers and keep notes on whom they’ve met.

Be Sincere. Kristen Garcia, a group sales manager at Macy’s West (M) says that her genuine interest in meeting others from the company got her the job offer after she interned at Macy’s two years ago. “I introduced myself briefly to someone who wasn’t my direct boss, and it got me to work on an advertising project that the rest of the interns weren’t working on,” Garcia says. “But I never misrepresented myself and was always sincere.” Butler agrees, “To be indiscriminate for the sake of networking is going to be a waste of your time and not get you what you want.”

Find Some Face Time. Online networking sites, such as LinkedIn, are great. But to truly build connections, Mok, encourages interns to join professional organizations in their field to get valuable face time. Especially for those in a large city, a variety of networking groups are available and organizers are often thrilled to get younger members. Dave Wills, vice-president of Seattle-based Cascade Link, encourages interested interns to join tech clubs and professional organizations organizations. “Through those clubs we’ve met people whom we’ve hired as interns or to work on other projects.”

Join in the Big Kid Activities. Interns don’t need to stick to their own kind. Instead, ask to play in the company softball league or volunteer with their charity of choice. For those willing to be more proactive it helps to create an activity others from the company would be excited to join.

Show Up Alone. If fellow interns at the company don’t join that optional lunch or head over for a few drinks at a happy hour—go alone and meet others at the organization. In fact, not bringing work friends to networking events helps guests leave their comfort zone and meet new contacts, according to a study by Columbia Business School professors Paul Ingram and Michael Morris.

Skip the E-Mail. Most key figures at a company are overwhelmed with their inbox, so instead of being 1 out of 200 messages, pick another way to communicate. Instead, a quick hello or a short chat goes a long way according to Wills. “A phone call is still appropriate,” he says and encourages interns to figure out a convenient time in the day. “I’m always booked solid in the mornings, but usually the afternoons for me are pretty laid-back”.

Save the Tough for Last. Reach out to those who are easiest to approach first—hold off on chatting with the heads of the company who probably know less about incoming interns. “Don’t start at the top of the food chain—network with people who can still identify with where you are as a student intern,” says Ken Keeley, executive director of the Career Opportunities Center at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. Going to the higher-ups later in the summer also increases the chance that a colleague will put in a good word about the intern before the actual approach.

Evaluate Them. Not only is networking a tool interns use to stand out, it’s also a way for students to find out whether they’re willing to commit to a full-time job. “Many times these organizations force students to make big decisions before campus recruiting, so the companies will know how much recruiting they have to do during the school year.” Garcia, who received her offer in September of senior year, agrees: “Not only did I want to make a good impression on the company, I wanted the company to make a good impression on me.”

Source: Dizik, Alina. “Networking for Interns.” www.businessweek.comBloomberg, L.P. 18 June 2007. Web. 04 June 2014