This month, we're hearing from college students and recent grads who have questions about how to navigate internships and make connections when they're starting at the bottom. We wanted to share their questions and Fran's advice before summer — and summer internship season —gets into full swing, so these two will be reporting back in June about how they're faring. Stay tuned!
Question: How do I make a good first impression on my first day of my summer internship? I tend to be shy and quiet (lots of "yeses") when I first meet supervisors, but how can I be bolder without crossing any lines? —Margaret, 21, rising senior at Villanova
Answer: One of the worst, most antiquated pieces of career advice I ever received was to keep your head down and just do a good job. You’re already leaps ahead because you realise that making an impression and earning recognition is a major part of career success. The challenge for any young employee or intern is to do so in a respectful, but powerful way. First, focus on your body language. Studies have shown that effective communication is only 7% verbal and 93% nonverbal (with the non-verbal being 55% body language and 38% tone of voice). On the first day of your internship, stand up straight and make eye contact when you meet your new supervisor. Presence is extremely important to flourish in the workplace. Some other tips:
Don’t speak too softly — women have trained themselves to not stand out from the crowd. Don’t shout, but speak in a confident tone.
Your voice needs air to work — remember to breathe!
Take up space. Men do this unconsciously, claiming power as they recline in a chair at a conference table. Don’t fold yourself up in the chair, own it.
Also, you’re not alone in feeling like a “yes woman.” Often I hear women say they’re stuck in a speaking-up bind: “If I keep quiet, my boss thinks I have nothing to add, but if I speak up too often, my coworkers think I’m a know-it-all.” To find your voice, first, do your homework so you’re prepared for day one. Google the company the day before so you're up to speed on any major news developments and make sure you have an understanding of the company's goals. Then, come up with some stock phrases to help you start or jump into a conversation. Here are some of my favourites:
“I did some informal research and discovered…”
“That reminds me of…”
“Following on that, I wonder if we…”
Remember, there is a reason they chose YOU out of the hundreds of college students that applied. Don’t miss an opportunity to go up and say “Hi” to someone who is senior to you. Don’t worry about having the perfect one-liner or business insight. Simply introduce yourself and let them know how happy you are to be there and even one thing you hope to learn or are most looking forward to this summer. Emotional connections often lead to the best impressions.
Question: How do I start to network and break into an industry I have zero contacts into? I want to launch into working at the Hill, but I don't know where to start! — Emma, 22, Vermont
Answer: You’re right that building relationships is crucial to get to an open door when you’re trying to enter a new field or make a career change. First, look beyond your inner circle. You may think you have zero contacts, but think through your parents’ friends, people you’ve babysat for, community service you’ve done — you may be surprised by who knows who, even locally in the your state’s legislature.
Then broaden your reach: Scour social networking sites like LinkedIn for mutual connections. Don’t be afraid to ask for an intro to these people. Researchers say that women in general have a less goal-oriented approach to networking and focus on finding common ground and socialising. Men will state what they want. Strike the balance between these two. Send a personal message and find a common ground, but don’t forget to ask for what you need. Make it simple for the person: Offer to prepare a forwardable email explaining what you’re hoping to get out of the introduction. (A phone date? Leads on any job openings? Info on how that person got their job?)
If you go to a networking event, show up — don’t stand in the corner and nurse your drink. Make it a point to introduce yourself to five new people and express your goal (to get a job on the Hill). You might be surprised to see how many public networking events are on sites like Eventbrite. Twitter is another amazing way to “cold meet someone;” I’ve heard plenty of stories of young college students retweeting, commenting, and engaging with someone to catch their attention; or DM’ing someone they admire or who has their dream career and forging a connection by asking questions about their path. Flattery will get you everywhere.