It’s that time of year to begin looking for internships and job opportunities for this coming summer. Whether you’re searching for a highly specific position or something just generally related to your field of study, internships are tricky to navigate. In fact, it can be hard to even know where to start. If you feel the same way, here are some simple tips on how to seamlessly network and interact with recruiters and companies to find an internship that works for you.
1. Use LinkedIn to your advantage
LinkedIn is a great place to start looking for internships and build an easily accessible online résumé for potential employers. Make sure that your profile is updated with a professional profile picture and accurate headline. LinkedIn is also helpful for building your network by connecting with classmates, coworkers, alumni, and mentors. You can even consider joining a LinkedIn group centered around your field of study. For example, if you’re a female Finance major, you could join a group focused on women in the field of finance. Not only will it help you meet similar individuals, but it can also expose you to a higher level of internship opportunities! And don’t worry if you lack a lot of job experience; there are plenty of other ways to make yourself stand out on LinkedIn, from your academic accomplishments to volunteer work to applicable job skills that you’re proficient in from independent work.
Related: How to Network With Your College's Alumni on LinkedIn
2. Attend in-person events when possible
In-person networking events can be extremely helpful when it comes to landing an internship (just remember to be COVID safe). You’ll get to meet face-to-face rather than through a screen, which can already set you apart; plus, you can get a better feel for the company by talking one-on-one with recruiters rather than attending a large event on Zoom. Remember that getting an internship is a two-way street—just because you’re offered one doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for you. Meeting in person is one way to gauge chemistry, but it also requires more attention to small, personal details such as grooming, handshakes, and greetings. If you’re headed to such an event, be sure to cover your bases because first impressions do matter.
3. Do your research
Whether it’s for a networking event, interview, or email exchange with a recruiter, always do your research first. This involves looking into what the company does based on their core mission and value statements, their social media pages, and website. Additionally, consider doing a search to see what headlines come up when you search the company name. These small components can tell you a lot about the place you’re looking to land an internship with and help show your interest in your conversation with recruiters. Think about it: Would you select the person who asks basic questions that could be answered by Google or the person who clearly took the time and effort to look into your company in order to ask deeper questions? Most people would choose the second.
Related: Your First Job Interview: Before, During, and After
4. Talk to friends, family, and former employers
As you scout out internships, don’t forget to talk to people you know. It’s great to go for an internship at a big, prestigious company, but also pay attention to opportunities closer to home. Perhaps you have a neighbor who works in your field who could give you advice on solid internships in the area, or maybe you have an older friend or sibling who had a great experience at a company and could put in a good word for you. It’s not bad to use your existing connections; in fact, it’s an excellent way to explore your options. Plus, if everyone you know is applying for the same internship, it’s just smart to look into other opportunities to set yourself apart and increase your chances.
5. Develop an elevator pitch
Elevator pitches sound intimidating and, frankly, impossible. How are you supposed to “sell yourself” in 30 seconds? With a little preparation and practice, you can develop a simple yet purposeful pitch. There are four main components that you want to cover:
- Who you are
- Where you attend school and what you’re studying
- What you’re looking for
- What value you can bring to the company
Having a clear and succinct statement will help you while networking both in person and online. It may take a few tries, but developing a loose framework will leave you with greater confidence and demonstrate your professionalism to your expanding network. This outline also gives you a synopsis of yourself to add at the top of your résumé, cover page, or LinkedIn “About” section.
6. Always ask questions
Asking questions can be intimidating but worth it. It may seem like poor etiquette to ask a lot of questions, but it shows initiative and curiosity—both of which are qualities most employers highly value. Many interviewers will offer you the opportunity to ask them questions, so think ahead of time about what you really want to know about the opportunity and avoid any questions you could answer with a simple scan of their website or close read of the application. Use this time to inquire about workplace culture, mentorship opportunities, future job prospects, and more specific queries about your potential position.
Related: 5 Surprising Internship Interview Tips
7. Be genuine
While it’s a good rule of thumb to smile, use professional manners, and dress to impress, don’t fake a personality that you think will impress a potential employer. You may see classmates who fit a certain profile, but that doesn’t mean you need to pretend to fit that same mold. If adopting a fake personality is the only way you can get an internship, that company isn’t somewhere you should work anyway. In the same vein, don’t be so overly professional you forget to showcase your personality at all. Recruiters are people too, and small talk is an important part of the networking process. You’ll be more memorable if you talk about your passions outside of the internship. And perhaps more important than the topic of your small talk is how you approach it; be sure to practice active listening by making eye contact, maintaining open body language, and having relaxed but upright posture.
8. Follow up with the recruiter
It may feel unnatural and even a little weird, but sending the recruiter a LinkedIn invitation to connect (if you haven’t already) or a thank-you email will help solidify you in their mind. A short but friendly message summarizing who you are and where you met that also thanks them for their time and assistance can go a long way. If it feels appropriate, you can add in something you discussed that may help them to remember you even more. You can also ask them to contact you with any additional suggestions for internships or other opportunities. Follow up within 24–48 hours of meeting to ensure you aren’t forgotten but also as a show of respect for their time and investment in you regardless of their response.
Related: How to Write a Strong Professional Email People Will Read
While we’ve focused on networking to find internship opportunities for the upcoming summer, many of the same principles can be applied when you’re on the hunt for full-time opportunities after graduation. No matter the purpose of your networking, knowing basic etiquette and standards of professionalism, being able to ask solid questions, and developing your own elevator pitch are all hallmarks of success in both the internship and postgrad world.
Check out the tag “networking” for all the advice you could need to help you master this important skill for internships and your future career.