Networking Advice for Interns
Picture this: You are a college student who spent the majority of your education at “Zoom University,” thanks to COVID-19. You were away from college experiences and in-person interactions for almost two years. Any opportunities, whether they be internships, jobs, or research, were all remote.
And now you find yourself standing in the middle of an event with over 200 people that have the potential to be great business connections, and you feel like a fish out of water, not even knowing where to look first.
I’ve been there and done that.
In only the second week of my internship, I and the other KIG interns had the opportunity to attend the annual Institute of Entrepreneurship (IEE) event in Pittsburgh. I don’t think any of us were truly prepared for such an event, considering the experience of the people that would be there, and the fact that we were the only interns in attendance didn’t help the nerves or displace any feelings of awkwardness.
So, what are you to do at your first big networking event after missing out on practicing those skills during college?
Here is the advice I’d give any fellow intern attending a networking event:1. First and foremost, smile!
This might seem simple, but it is easy to look reserved and unfriendly at events when you are nervous. Looking unopen to conversation won’t do you any favors because people will not want to approach you. Look ready to socialize!2. Bring a friend.
If possible, bring another intern or someone with similar job experience to the event. This allows you to feel awkward together! I’m just kidding, but it will allow you to bounce ideas off of each other about approaching potential connections. You can also approach people together before splitting up to get more comfortable with talking with strangers.3. Know the business you work for and what you do there.
You’re probably thinking, “well duh!” But many interns might not think about how to respond to these questions. You don’t want to stick to a script for every answer, but know the main points you want to hit, like your main responsibilities and what the company you work for essentially does. This is important because you don’t want to stumble through these answers. They are the first things that are usually asked, and a lot of “ums” and “I’m not sures” don’t make a good first impression.4. Get those business cards and follow up.
There is no point in going to a networking event if you don’t plan on using the connections you made afterward. LinkedIn is your best friend. You could be talking to someone who could be your next employer. Always ask for a business card and bring your own (if you have some). Connect with those people on LinkedIn and send a personal message, if possible.5. Force yourself to split up from who you came with.
If you’re there with a boss, do not follow them around all night hoping they will do all the introductions for you. If you’re there with team members, you will not make a memorable impression because of the number of people you’re with. That doesn’t help you get experience, and if you go to other events by yourself, you won’t be prepared to make meaningful connections.6. And last but not least, fake it until you make it with confidence.
The more often you engage with people – even when you’re scared – the easier it will be to approach people.
Networking will get easier. It only takes a couple of events to feel like a pro, especially if you follow the tips above. I’m lucky enough to have an internship that offers me so much practice. KIG has invited the interns to every event that would have us. They believe that networking is part of the interning experience, not just doing work in the office. A well-rounded worker must have the ability to make meaningful connections, and KIG makes sure the college students that come through the doors leave with these skills.