By Colleen Sabatino, The Intern Coach
Starting an internship at a company where you don’t know anyone can be tough. You’re used to a routine at school, and having friends and classmates around to study and socialize with. Don’t worry! You’ll fall into a routine at your internship just like you do at school each semester, and here are some networking tips—soon you’ll be meeting a ton of new people and maybe even making some new friends.
- Act friendly. Put a smile on your face and say hello to other employees in your department and building. If someone doesn’t respond in an enthusiastic manner, don’t take it personally. You never know what might be going on—lots of things can cause a bad mood and it probably has nothing to do with you. Actually, your pleasant greeting might cheer him/her up.
- Ask questions. The best way to start a conversation is to ask the other person about himself/herself. Good questions include: “How long have you worked here?” “Any suggestions for a good place to grab lunch?” “Did you catch last night’s game?” Weather questions are always appropriate. And it’s fine to ask about family pictures that are on a co-worker’s desk.
- Develop conversations. Now that you’ve established yourself as a friendly, outgoing person who is interested in your co-workers, you’re ready to take the next step—keeping a two-way conversation going. Try joining different groups for lunch but always ask first before simply sitting down. Introduce national news topics or local subjects and ask for other opinions. Then, give your viewpoint. However, don’t get into an argument if your views differ. Keep it light and people will find that you’re stimulating company, engage in conversation easily, and are enjoyable to be around.
- Network with new friends. By now, you’ve found a few people—in your department, at the company fitness center, or in the cafeteria—whose company you enjoy. Continue to develop those friendships and professional relationships because each new friend could lead to another acquaintance, and then another. Before you know it, you’ve built a good network.
- Set networking goals. You started off at your internship in an environment with total strangers. Draw up a list of people you know now and list their departments. Try to add to that list every day. Of course, your first responsibility is to your internship assignment and team members, so make sure your performance exceeds expectations. Your teammates may turn out to be your new best friends.