Written by Savannah Hostetter – Program Advisor, the Engalitcheff Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems
Networking is an important skill for every young professional to master. I prefer to think of networking as relationship building. There’s an art to it, here’s how it works:
Step 1) The First Impression: You will attend events filled with professionals eligible to help you in your career. From the moment you walk in the door, you want to make a good impression.
A firm handshake, proper eye contact, and a clean, appropriate appearance are the necessary keys to starting a good conversation.
Once the conversation begins, listen, participate and ask a couple of questions. If the person’s interests start to align with your passions, keep the conversation going. Talking too much or only about yourself (especially your resume) can be off-putting. As a popular quote goes, “It is better for people to think you are a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Be Smart. Be Real. Be Likeable.
Step 2) The Connection: At the end of an engaging conversation, ask for his or her business card. It is better to get the contact information of one person you are genuinely interested in than to meet as many people as possible. It’s the old quality over quantity principle.
Remember, networking isn’t a competition. Too many interns make the mistake of handing out business cards like Halloween candy.
Be memorable (in a good way) and make an authentic connection.
Step 3) The Follow Up: As the intern, it is your responsibility to initiate the second conversation. You must continue the professional relationship. Send a quick follow up email containing “Hello John, It was a pleasure meeting you at the Press Club luncheon on Friday. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation about the impact of higher education on a person’s financial decisions…..” Request to meet again. Offering to buy the person a cup of coffee is typically a safe bet.
Step 4) Making It Real: Last but not least, when it comes to networking, it is important to never view people as simply a means to an end. Instead, view people as people. Yes, some individuals might be able to help you land your dream job. However, network with people who can help you in the greater scheme of life. Connect with professionals who genuinely care about what you are passionate about.
Make friends rather than contacts.
Jane Austin states, “There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” In the end, if the new relationship you’ve built leads to a job, that’s awesome. If not, you’ve gained a friend and more than likely learned something new all while mastering the art of networking along the way.