It’s intern season: Here’s how to network

The increased number of fresh faces scurrying around the office, ambitious energy buzzing in the air and longer lines at my favorite bars can mean only one thing: It’s intern season.

Interning is a critical step toward being successful in your post-grad years. But I’m not here to talk about interning. (If you want the scoop on how to stand out, check out my Facebook page. Or watch “The Devil Wears Prada,” since Andy was basically a glorified intern, let’s be real.)

I’m filling you in on another skill you should sharpen this summer: Networking.

During your summer internship, you need to make the time to network: getting some face time with the people who can get you a job, or can just teach you more about your industry.

It’s like there’s an invisible set of rules when it comes to networking, and learning them can be sticky. So, I’m breaking it down into four tips to make this whole networking thing a little bit more clear.

1. Connect, connect, connect

One thing people constantly told me throughout my college years was that it’s so hard to get a job in the journalism industry without a connection, or an “in.” While that’s true, a connection doesn’t have to be a family member or friend.

Reach out to the college professors you admire, and ask if they know any former students who could talk with you about your industry. Simply being from the same school as someone can serve as a connection. Trust me when I say that alumni want to help you out.

Or, ask around on your own social networks, and make it clear you’re not necessarily looking for a job but are simply looking to pick someone’s brain. You never know who someone’s stepdad’s sister’s niece’s pen pal knows.

2. Websites and apps can help

These days, connecting with your crush is just a swipe away, so why shouldn’t connecting with your career crush be the same?

LinkedIn is obviously the go-to site for networking. Recruiters regularly hunt there for prospective candidates, so be sure to update your skills section! It also can be a great place for connecting with people you admire in your industry, or even with fellow alumni you’d like to get to know better.

There’s even an app for networking called Shapr. But beware, it might trigger some traumatic Tinder memories.

After your Shapr profile is all set up, you can input your “interests” (up to 10), which help determine good matches for you.

Out of curiosity, I had my intern, Emily, test it out. It wasn’t her fave way to network.

“You can start swiping, right for yes and left for no, literally just like Tinder,” Emily says. “Myself, a student, could match with another student, which is cool to network, but I want to meet people older than me who I can really learn from who aren’t just interns, but who are industry professionals.”

Moral of the story: Test it out if apps are your thing, but there are many benefits to keeping it a bit old school.

3. But do the connecting IRL, too

OK, you’ve made the connection. Even if that connection starts online, make sure to get some face time offline, otherwise your relationship will fizzle faster than a Bumble match who refuses to meet IRL.

Suggest a coffee shop or another quiet place the two of you can chat, but be sure to cater to their schedule. Remember they’re doing you a favor by meeting, so be considerate of their busy schedule and keep the meeting concise and close to their office. I promise, in due time, the position of power will shift in your favor!

Keep the convo professional, but not rigid; find ways you can relate to the person you’re networking with. At the end of the day, these people aren’t mythical creatures. They’re humans, so try to find a way you can genuinely connect.

4. Nurture your new relationship

We all have that friend who hits you up only when they need something. When it comes to networking, don’t be that person.

After you meet to network with someone, send a follow-up email every now and then just to touch base, not just to ask them to forward your resume straight to their boss.

If they’re a journalist, for example, send a short message about how you enjoyed a recent article they wrote, and wish them well. Or, send an article about your industry that you thought was interesting and thought they’d enjoy.

It’s a delicate balance between being too persistent and being thoughtful. Strike that balance and you’re golden. Now, go network like a boss!

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Sarah Berger

I am a journalist and penny-pinching millennial living in New York City on a budget.