3 Networking in the workplace
You’ll have realised by now that networking is a recurring theme throughout this course. In this section, you’ll focus on networking in the workplace.
If you perceive networking as rather intimidating, it might feel easier to think of it as a series of conversations with colleagues. Your aim is for these conversations to help you to build more productive working relationships and learn more about the sector, the organisation and its roles.
In fact, when you are gaining work experience you have an advantage because the people around you will be expecting you to ask questions. This means it is a great opportunity to practise your skills and build your knowledge at the same time.
So who might you network with?
If there are several of you undertaking work experience at the same time, it will be well worth taking the time to build your relationships with them. Not only will that give you a support group of peers to share thoughts and ideas with while you are alongside them but you never know what they will go on to do later in their careers, or what they have already done, and when they could be helpful to you.
Make sure you keep in touch with them after you leave too, sharing progress updates or information that you think might be useful to them. That way, you’ll stay in their minds and getting in touch to explore work opportunities will be much easier later on.
These are the people who will be able to give you inside information on working for this organisation or in this sector. This will be invaluable when making future career decisions.
A key colleague that you need to build a good relationship with is your line manager or supervisor. Keeping a regular dialogue with them, giving them progress reports and asking for feedback will certainly enhance your experience and create a good impression.
They are an obvious person to provide a reference for you in the future so keeping them on side and impressed could have long term benefits.
This can sometimes feel difficult, but many organisations offering work experience will take deliberate steps to ensure that you meet the senior managers at some point. Or if not, you could ask for the opportunity. Do your research about them and have some key questions ready. Make sure you have something to say.
Watch this video from Professional Relationship Strategist Andy Lopata about approaching senior executives. Although he isn’t talking specifically about interns, this is relevant advice for you as well.
Transcript: Video 3
Lopata’s tip on learning something about them and mentioning it at the start of your conversation with them is a particularly useful one. This goes back to the research you considered in Week 4. Does your target have a social media presence? Does the company website have a news page? If you’ve built a good relationship with your line manager, you could ask them what senior managers value and prioritise and refer to that.
Setting up a LinkedIn profile before you start your work experience is another good tip. It will give you a useful platform for collecting key contacts and staying in touch with them after your experience has ended.
Activity 3 Talking to the CEO
Zahara is doing an internship with a large software company. She knows that she and the other interns will be meeting the CEO next week at a networking lunch and she wants to stand out.
She’s been following the company on social media and so has seen clips from a recent TV interview in which the CEO spoke about the importance of the company recruiting from a wide pool of diverse candidates, not just focusing on top universities.
Zahara was recently part of a focus group for an organisation lobbying for change in this area.
When she gets her opportunity to talk to the CEO, what could her opening line be? Write your suggestions in the box below.
The point of this activity is to get you thinking about good opening lines. You might not be at the stage yet where you know who you’re going to be working for and can comment on something they’ve said or done – hence the case study here.
Zahara should refer to the interview and the parallels with her own experience as this is likely to grab the CEO’s attention. For example, she might say:
I really enjoyed your interview with the BBC last Wednesday, I’m really interested in recruitment diversity and was recently involved in a focus group on this topic for a lobbying organisation.
When you start your research, if you can’t find anything interesting that the CEO has said, you might choose instead to comment on some good results the company has had or how welcoming the company culture is. Try to think of things that will be on their radar.
Making all these contacts and learning lots of new information can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re trying to make the most of a fairly short period of work experience. Having a journal to make notes in as you go along will mean that you can capture everything without having to try and remember it all. You’ll consider this next.