Internships are a very special time in any young professional’s life. Not only do they as act as a passage from them being carefree students to responsible and accountable contributors, but for many aspiring professionals this is when they find financial independence, start to take pride in their achievements and contributions and most importantly, find older professional to learn from.

Beyond the daily grind of long task lists lies a hidden treasure- the opportunity to build a powerful network that can evolve into a support system for life. The batchmates with whom you are interning, learning together, making mistakes together, burning the midnight oil to meet deadlines become friends for life. The mentors and guides who seem to give very harsh feedback and keep sending you back to redo things, are actually polishing and refining you into better professionals. The more time and effort we spend in authentically connecting with peers and seniors in these early years, the richer will be our network.

A Rich Network Offers Numerous Benefits

Access to Industry Insights: Internships can feel siloed, focusing on specific tasks. Networking with professionals who work in different areas of your field broadens your perspective. Ask questions, learn about their career paths, and gain invaluable insights into the industry’s current trends and future outlook. This knowledge is gold when making informed decisions about your own career trajectory.

Find Hidden Opportunities: A lot of jobs aren’t publicly announced. By building relationships with professionals around, you might learn about interesting openings and opportunities. Your network might even connect you with hiring managers within their connections. This knowledge can give you a significant advantage in the competitive job market.

Find Mentors and Champions: Veteran professionals can be invaluable sources of continuous learning. Seek out those who inspire you and whose career path aligns with your aspirations. Approach them for coffee or a quick chat, expressing your interest in learning from their experience. These mentors can provide guidance, support, and even write you a stellar recommendation letter.

Boost Your Confidence: Meeting successful professionals and learning their stories can be incredibly inspiring and confidence-building. It allows you to see the possibilities within your chosen field and provides a roadmap for your own success.

Yet, for many young professionals, networking or making new connections can seem like a daunting task. It might stem from a sense of awe that one feels towards others who are more senior and therefore perceived as more successful. Sometimes, many individuals are inherently introverts and find it difficult to make the first move. Or simply the tasks at hand might seem too much to handle. So here are some thought starters that can help young professionals leverage the art and science of networking from their very first internship-

Everyone started as an intern– Remember, however senior, accomplished, successful the person might be in front of you, this person too started as an intern and learnt from someone. Every one has to go through this journey. A few years down the line you would switch seats and there would be an intern sitting in front of you. So approach with confidence.

Be a Go-Getter and ask for more: Don’t just stick to your assigned tasks. Take initiative! Proactively seek opportunities to interact with colleagues from different departments. Attend team meetings even if not directly required. Offer help on projects outside your scope (with your supervisor’s approval, of course).

Participate in company events, mixers, or volunteer initiatives. This proactive approach demonstrates your eagerness to learn and allows you to connect with a wider range of professionals. The more you do, more visible you are, more people you interact with, and you build more credibility. There is nothing more attractive than credibility while building a network.

Embrace Small Talk: This is particularly relevant for the shy ones, or the introverts. People like it when someone is genuinely interested in them. Ask colleagues thoughtful questions and listen attentively. Questions could be about their weekends, or their roles within the company, what do they like the most in their role, upcoming industry events or even hobbies. Strike up conversations in the lunchroom or break area. These seemingly insignificant interactions can lead to genuine connections and open doors to further conversations. This will help you get to know people and make you more comfortable around them. Also, your interest and empathetic outlook will attract others to connect with you.

Seek Out Mentorship: Identify someone in your company who inspires you, because of the work they have done, or their career trajectory, or their leadership style. Approach them with authenticity and humility ask to be involved in a project and express an interest to learn. Be specific in your asks. Don’t be intimidated – most professionals are happy to help motivated interns. Approach them for coffee or a quick chat, expressing your interest in learning from their experience.

Deliver Value: Mentorship is a two-way street. Don’t just show up expecting free advice. Do your research beforehand. Come prepared with specific questions about their career journey or the industry in general. Be genuinely interested in their insights and demonstrate your eagerness to learn.

Networking Beyond the Office Walls
Your networking potential is not limited to your organisation. The professional world extends far beyond the walls of your company. Explore these additional avenues to expand your network:

Industry Events: Attend workshops, conferences, or webinars related to your field. These events offer a chance to meet professionals from various companies, industry experts, learn new things, and showcase your knowledge during Q&A sessions. Actively participate in discussions and ask insightful questions to demonstrate your expertise.

Professional Associations: Join industry-specific associations. Many host events and offer online forums where you can connect with peers and established professionals. Engage in discussions, participate in committees, or volunteer for projects – this allows you to contribute and build a strong reputation within your field.

Social Media: LinkedIn is your professional playground. Connect with colleagues, supervisors, industry influencers, and alumni from your school. But don’t just collect connections – engage in relevant discussions, share insightful articles, and showcase your accomplishments. Publish short posts about projects you’re working on at your internship, demonstrating your skills and knowledge.

Networking is not a one-time activity but a lifetime investment. Connections need to be nurtured and maintained.

Stay Connected: There is always a need to nurture these connections so that they don’t fade away. Send occasional emails with updates about your progress, industry news, or even birthday wishes. However, avoid spamming. Aim for quality over quantity.

Informational Interviews: Reach out to professionals in your field for informational interviews. These casual conversations are a goldmine for career advice and insights. Prepare a list of questions beforehand and express your gratitude for their time.

Leverage Travel to Catch up: if and when you travel for work, do catch up with old friend, colleagues and mentors. It is not just when we need their help that we should connect with them. It is when we don’t need their help that we should stay connected.

Building a strong network takes time and effort and yet, it is an undeniable truth that well networked people get better opportunities faster and more. They have better access to information. All these are ingredients of a successful career. So, however busy you are, integrate networking into your day, Today.

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