Internships and other work experiences
Internships and other work experiences

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Internships and other work experiences

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?

Other interns

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.

Colleagues

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.

Senior managers

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.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 3
Skip transcript: Video 3

Transcript: Video 3

[MUSIC PLAYING]

ANDY LOPATA:
The first thing to be aware of when you want to engage with people who are more senior than you is that they will have limited bandwidth. They will probably have limited time. So you need to capture their attention. That doesn't mean be the peacock and flourish your feathers and be the most impressive person in the room. If you can do that naturally and you can really catch their eye, that's fantastic. But if everyone is preening in front of them, it becomes counterproductive.
Actually, for me, I think it's about being aware of your status and respectful of theirs without putting yourself down. So it's about respect. It's about understanding what the balance of the relationship is likely to be. So it's ideal if you know something about what they stand for, something they said at an internal company meeting or at a conference or they've written in the press or in a report. If you can turn round to them and say I really admire what you said about this, or I really agree with what you said about this and either follow-up with a question about it or tell them how the work you're doing relates to it, you can engage their interest because you know that that's something that's important to them.
The other thing that I think is really powerful is questions, not trying to show you know all the answers because they know that you don't, but respecting that they know a lot more of them than you probably do. So ask two or three intelligent questions. And when you get their responses, make sure you follow up with them. Connect on LinkedIn with a personal connection request saying it was really good to speak to you and tell them when you spoke and then keep them up to date with anything you do or you hear that's related to your conversation. It's that constant engagement that keeps you in sight and in mind and will make them start to pay attention to you.
The other thing is patience. If you want to approach a senior person to sell an idea or to get them to become your mentor or whatever it might be, if you do it cold on that first conversation, the chances are the answer will be no. But if you get them to know you over a period of time, you'll increase your chances of getting the response you're looking for. It's not guaranteed, and that reason may not be you. It may be their workload and other things. But you're going to have a better chance of a positive response if you build the relationship and the awareness over time. So for me, patience is key.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

End transcript: Video 3
Video 3
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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

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes for this activity

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.

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Discussion

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.

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