Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Kristen Fife's Blog

Effective Networking for College Students for Internships and Jobs

2013-04-03 13:01:01
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As intern and graduation season both approach, I thought I would focus a little time on the efforts of pursuing opportunities both as a new graduate and as a student seeking internships. First of all, let's define "networking". It's basically about building personal relationships with other individuals. While being part of a special interest community or group is a great way to meet those that are either like-minded or share a hobby, passion, or profession identification of such a group is the just the first step in the process.

One of the most ineffective ways to approach networking is to go online into a forum, community, or group and say, "Hi! I'm looking for an internship in New York city in marketing. Please message me if you know of anything!" Have you ever heard the old cliche of shooting fish in a barrel? Well, spread that out to shooting in the ocean for a shrimp. This is not how "networking" works. You are not building those one to one relationships and asking someone for a *reasonable* favor. It also leaves a poor impression with people that could be in a position to help you.

The professional world is built on an economy of trading...favors, money, expertise/information and even in some industries, human capital (recruiters share resumes quite frequently if candidates allow it.) But these transactions occur because the people involved have built a level of trust and respect for one another. This happens on a number of levels, but the most important is by reputation. Do you say you are going to do something and consistently follow through? Are your "transactions" generally of high quality? Is your information/expertise correct and valuable? So for you, as a student, to just throw out a plea for something to be given to you with absolutely no context as to your reputation or worth at the very least shows that you don't understand the business world (which is forgivable to a degree due to inexperience) but also shows an attitude of being expected to have things handed to you without even forming a personal relationship.

Let's use LinkedIn as this is where the largest number of offenders are. For the sake of argument, let's say someone in my university alumni group throws out a plea of, "Hello, I'm graduating in May with a degree in finance. Please let me know if you hear of any job openings." This is ludicrous. There are tens of thousands of graduates at every level and within a huge set of industries. First of all, I went to school in Ohio (which is where I grew up), but I've been in the Pacific Northwest for well over 15 years. Being a recruiter, I may know about a ton of openings along the I-5 corridor (running from Vancouver BC in Canada down to the Mexican border with major population hubs in Seattle, Portland, Silicon Valley, LA and San Diego), but that may not be at all helpful or attractive to someone in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky or Illinois which are the neighboring states to Ohio.

Take the time to craft a note, and ask for something specific from individuals. Look for people that are either managers, in HR/Recruiting, or fairly highly placed (Director, GM, or C-level) at target companies, or at the very least target industries. And this bears repeating: do not neglect your parents' networks; most of their friends are at the right age to either be a hiring manager or know them. Be detailed and give them a reason why you are contacting them.

"Kristen, I see that you are a technical recruiter in Seattle for RealNetworks. I am interested in opportunities on the West Coast for entry level mobile development opportunities, and was wondering if I could set up time to chat, or if you had suggestions about companies I could target in WA and CA."

"Bob, I will be graduating from OU this May, and I am interested in the opportunity to discuss potential companies that might be hiring accounting majors. I am looking at X, Y, and Z and I see you have contacts in all three of my target companies."

"Jill, I am a junior studying fashion merchandising at IU, and I see that you have a contact at Macy's in New York City. I have a 4.0 in my major and recently finished a capstone project that would be immediately applicable. Would you be willing to forward a request for an introduction to Tom in the HR department at Macy's?"

Being polished is essential to get you ahead in the business world. With the amount of data available to you, networking the right way is much easier than it was 20 years ago. Do your homework, have the information available, then ask for help.

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Lyndsey Bohall: Re: - Effective Networking for College Students for Internships and Jobs
2014-10-14 09:16:18

Hi Kristen,

Just wanted to say thank you for this helpful article. As someone nearing graduation, I have referenced this particular article (in addition to your other great articles targeting new grads) many times as I build my network.

One question for you. When you are reaching out to someone you already know (whether it's an old manager, a contact from a previous internship, etc.) would you change the formatting of the note in any way?


Kristen Fife: Re: - Effective Networking for College Students for Internships and Jobs
2014-10-15 09:04:47

Hi Lyndsey, if you are using a template for the majority of your contacts, then yes. It should be personalized to reference your existing relationship. Make it more personal, as you would any other person you know.

Hope that helps!

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