Chrissie Friedrichsen is a Program Advisor at Global Experiences. She helps interns prepare for their international internship programs around the world.
Yea, yea…you’ve heard the phrase, but do you understand that it’s not just something people say, it’s actually the truth?
In the current work environment, a personal reference is invaluable. This has always been the case, regardless of job market conditions. There’s nothing like someone vouching for you, your character, and your work ethic. People do business with, and, hire people they know and can trust. It’s always a gamble for an employer to hire a complete stranger. It’s less of a gamble, in fact it seems like a no brainer, when a respected acquaintance says, “Hire this person. You’ll be happy you did.” This is the importance of networking.
YOU already have a network. You knew that, right? Your network consists of EVERYONE YOU KNOW. In order to utilize your network, you have to start asking people what they do, if they’re aware of any job openings, if they know someone in your industry that you can get in touch with, etc. The goal is to decrease the amount of time and effort it can take to find a job completely on your own. After you’ve explored your network and asked these questions, the key is to FOLLOW UP. You’d be amazed how many opportunities are missed because people failed to follow up.
Statistics are great, and I could throw some out at you. But if you’re anything like me, you prefer personal stories to prove a point. Here they are:
- Mine: Four years ago, I was in a job I was less than crazy about, and was having drinks with a girl I used to wait tables with back in college, and her boyfriend. The boyfriend started telling me about how the company he worked for sent college students abroad to intern in foreign countries. I thought it sounded pretty cool and right up my alley. I sent him an email a month later asking if they were hiring. They weren’t at the time, but I kept following up and eventually I found myself in a round of interviews. After I was hired, our Director of Operations told me that not only had her co-worker vouched for me, but that one of my references (a former manager) was a good friend of her cousin’s. Boom.
- My colleagues, Alex and Stephanie: Both Alex and Stephanie participated in our Dublin Summer Internship Program at different times. Alex has been with GE for 5 years, and Stephanie just started this October. Both leveraged their connections with GE and voila – they are here with us today!
- Intern Blake: Blake interned for an international Public Relations firm in Barcelona last summer. He is now graduated and on the job hunt. Guess who he’s back in touch with to see if they know of any job openings in their offices around the world?
- Intern Kelly: Kelly interned for a fashion showroom in Milan back in the fall of 2013. They loved her, we loved her. She was invited by her host employer to return to Italy during summer 2013. We also invited her to be an Assistant Location Coordinator for the Milan program alongside her work at the showroom. Guess who’s looking to go back to Milan again this summer?
- Intern Christine: Christine spoke with Intern Kelly this summer before she left for the Milan Fall 2014 Internship Program, to hear about her previous experience. Upon returning to the US, Christine remembered that Kelly also worked for a well known fashion company in California. She reached back out to Kelly to let her know her time in Milan was wonderful and to see if Kelly might have some job advice or know of any openings at her current company. Clever girl…
- My husband: Brent used to be a sales manager with Toyota. My older brother sent one of his friends to buy a car from Brent. The friend was so impressed with Brent’s style and technique; he ended up offering him a job in the financial industry where Brent is now working less hours for higher pay.
- My best friend: Blair graduated with a degree in Art History. After college, she moved back home and was looking to start her career. I connected her with a friend who worked for an international handbag company. Blair started off in customer service and has worked her way up to Marketing Manager. She’s been with the company for over 8 years. And guess who get’s discounted designer handbags now? (wink wink)
- Our internship placements: We, as a collective group of world travelers, have connections all around the world and use them regularly to connect our interns with customized placements in their field. Our employers even send us referrals of other companies to work with in each city. Guess who benefits from our connections? Our interns!
I could keep going on and on with these stories, but I think you get the point. For those of you about to embark on an internship program, remember that everyone you meet in your host city will become part of your NETWORK. This includes your supervisor, your colleagues, and especially your peers.
If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to create a LinkedIn profile and connect with our LinkedIn and Facebook Alumni Groups after completing your student internship program. Why wouldn’t you?
Parting words: Don’t burn bridges, be a good person, keep in touch with people, treat others with respect, and value those personal relationships. Nurture your network and treat it well, because you never know who’s going to be the one that helps you get ahead in the end. And remember, it’s not what you know, it’s WHO KNOWS YOU!