Networking…Why is it Important?: An Intern’s Perspective
Whether you work for an organization that is small, big, or somewhere in between, there is one thing every student—both undergrads and graduate students, regardless of their field of study—should be doing during their internship: networking. There is an old phrase (whose origin is unknown) that goes as follows: “It is whom you know, then what you know.” While you are expected to learn throughout your internship about the company, skills, and new initiatives, it is even more important that you take this time to build your network. The great thing about networking is that it is never too late to start, but the earlier you begin, the better off you can always be.
An advantage of working for a big company is that between employee resource groups (ERGs), departments and other cross-functional affairs, there is always an opportunity for me to network. By the books, “networking” is defined as follows:
Every time I meet a new person at work, school, or someplace else, I always try to establish a personal connection with that new person. This helps to drive and create a “productive relationship” because it is usually a talking point that serves as the foundation and beginning of a professional relationship. If there is a situation where I know beforehand who I will be meeting, say for an interview, I will search the person on LinkedIn and Google to learn more about them, including their profession, interests, previous experience, education, and so on.
If I am not able to find a connecting point between myself and the person I am going to meet, I still try to learn more about that person. This is key to networking because it shows that you are interested in learning more.
Something else that I do when I network is actively seek how I can help those whom I meet. According to Business Insider, it is key to develop a professional relationship that focuses on helping others while networking. At Boston Scientific, for instance, I joined an ERG and immediately connected with some of its founders, working to help the development of the group. From working on developing communication materials to brainstorming ideas for their plethora of events during October’s Disability Awareness Month, I know that not only working on something that is close to my heart (as I have a brother who has Autism); I am opening myself up to other potential networking opportunities.
While all of this may seem overwhelming to many young professionals, a research paper from Harvard Business School does, in fact, confirm that many professionals—especially those who are younger in age and not as seasoned with business acumen and experience—are more uncomfortable and feel “dirty” when it comes to networking. Regardless, young professionals need not be discouraged when networking, specifically with people who are more experienced, because there are still experiences that young professionals have that their elders do not. In a recent email I received from Victor Cheng, a former McKinsey & Company Management Consultant and the founder of CaseInterview.com, he emphasizes that “networking is in essence the “cover letter” to the cover letter.” As a young professional, I have come to realize that to further my professional development networking with others and learn from their experiences I need to reciprocate by offering my own advice to others, even if they are older than I am. For example, as a member of various LinkedIn groups, I get weekly emails from the group featuring top questions that people ask. Frequently, I will provide suggestions and feedback to those seek advice because learning is a two-way street.
To conclude, for all young professionals: network, ask probing and thought-provoking questions, and do your research when you can in the midst of networking. Best of luck with fall recruitment and stay tuned for another post soon.