Networking is the most effective tool to gain internships: It’s not what you know but who you know. It is a career development skill that you must develop. In its simplest form, networking involves having a “career conversation” with someone for the purpose of exploring careers or job searching. With your professional goals in mind, you should actively build, reinforce and maintain relationships of trust with other people.
Many international students who succeed in getting prized internships and stipends highly recommend networking. Recent surveys of employers indicate that over 50% of all open positions are filled through networking! So begin to develop your networking skills you will gain a valuable tool that will serve you throughout your career life.
Where do you find people to network with? All around you! Every conference, meeting, lecture and social event is an opportunity to meet new people, build your reputation and create opportunities for yourself. You can also use LinkedIn, the online professional networking website, to find professionals in your areas of interest.
Effective networking is quite difficult, so here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Understand that the person you are trying to network with is a person, not just a contact that is going to ‘get you something’
2. Always feel confident about yourself and your ability to positively contribute
3. Create business cards and have them ready at all times (it is okay for your title to be student)
4. Make it a habit of attending lectures, speeches, and other special events on campus and in your community because you never know who will be there
5. Look at the program ahead of time and determine who you may want to speak with after the program
6. Ask questions throughout the event
7. Key target people you would like to talk to, introduce yourself and describe what you do
8. If you are unable to identify someone on your target list, look for an individual you already know who is conversing with someone you do NOT know
9. Exchange business cards and follow up with an e- mail or a phone call
10. Do not beat yourself up if things do not turn out the way you planned them with regard to networking. They often do not. The best relationships may emerge when you least expect them to.
When you apply for an internship or scholarship, in the majority of cases you will have to attend an interview, which could be a deciding factor. Many international students get intimidated by interviews or are concerned about their accent or ability to communicate effectively.The best way to get over your interview worries is to practice. Turn to your peers with good communication skills and ask them to help you practice. Work on their feedback, improve yourself and repeat until you feel ready for the real interview.