Don’t Underestimate the Value of Summer Networking

Like the fabled grasshopper, many job seekers, including college students and interns, think that the summer is a good time to take off from their job search. Yet in reality the opposite is true.

Summer is one of the best times to look for a job because people are more relaxed and more social yielding more opportunities to expand your network. Bosses and colleagues are on vacation so that they’re in a more receptive state of mind, have more time to talk, and are more positively disposed to help you, especially if you’re already working in the organization as an intern and people accept your presence.

A colleague recently told me she had interviewed two of her firm’s summer interns. One didn’t stray from his cookie cutter questions. Given this candidate’s education and job goals, she left the meeting wondering how he the got the internship in the first place, since he clearly didn’t want to be there. The other candidate’s experience was in another business category, yet he asked insightful questions and understood how to apply his seemingly unrelated experience. He didn’t stop there! He had done his research so he could ask pertinent questions about my colleague and her department. Guess who has the better chance at a full time job?

The bottom line

Act with confidence and make every meeting support your case. Whether it’s a formal one-on-one or a chance conversation in the elevator, be prepared. Know the organization and its key executives so you’re prepared for the interview that may not be titled as such. Skip the canned MBA questions and do your homework. Here are five areas to research:

  • Industry. How is the industry affected by the current economic environment? Which companies in this industry dominate the market and how does this particular firm rank?
  • Company. What are the challenges facing this firm? How do they play out in this specific area of the organization? What would you recommend and why? (Bear in mind that with limited knowledge of the organization, you can’t be expected to know how it works but rather you want to show that you’re thinking about the future.)
  • Position. Is this the job you want? Are you happy with what you’re doing? If not, where do you see yourself in the organization and why? If this isn’t your goal, do you have a networking plan to find out where you want to be? Bear in mind that it’s sometimes necessary to network or take jobs where they’re available, especially in these difficult times.
  • Experience. How does your work experience relate to the job? Think beyond your résumé. If your interests are significantly different from your experience, how can you show that you’re qualified? Are the skills transferable or do you have non-paid work experience?
  • Interviewer. Do you know anything special about the interviewer? Do you have anything in common? How can you connect on a personal basis? What will make you memorable to this person?

By the way, if you’re an intern or on the job, don’t underestimate building relationships. Think about everyone you working with including the admins. They can be powerful.

Is there anything else that you’d add to this list?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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Photo credit: Rob Lee via Flickr

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