Helping interns with networking skills

April 26, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Posted in career center, networking | 1 Comment
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by Jane Finkle

Students often need an extra push to move forward with networking.  They know it has some impact on their career development, but for many students networking is a foreign concept that requires learning a new language.  As a student becomes proficient in the dialogue of networking, he or she increases the chance of developing a relationship with a professional who is capable of offering insight into a career field, or, who can lead them to a valuable internship. Counseling sessions that focus on networking as an essential skill, provide an ideal opportunity to enliven the student’s communication repertoire, strengthen their preparedness for professional life, and build overall confidence.  Career counseling offers students a safe place to practice skills, deal with their fears and learn how to use networking to their advantage.

Writing Skills

In my own counseling sessions, I have been able to assist students in drafting a note or an Email to a professional contact by helping them develop an outline that will explain the nature of their interests. Equally important, I work with the student on generating questions to further support their goals. By the time a student leaves my office, he or she has developed a plan for the initial correspondence to a contact and given a deadline within which to complete the note or letter.  Once the letter is completed, the student then sends it to me via email or brings it to my office for feedback.  We all know the staying power first impressions have.  If the letter to a professional is appropriately and carefully composed, the chance of that professional responding favorably to a student increases substantially.  I also view mastering this type of correspondence as a precursor to writing a strong cover letter.

Role Playing

For those students who are anxious about how they will initiate a conversation or approach a professional contact at an event, setting up a short role play can be very effective.  Typically, the first question I pose to a student has to do with what they hope to achieve by talking to a professional contact. This thought, in turn, helps the student to formulate and prepare probing and useful questions.   At this point, I ask that they imagine that I am the contact person and we engage in role playing ways they might introduce themselves and how they would articulate their goals.  For the extremely shy and reserved student who has performance anxiety, I do a short role play using video on the computer.  This is a technique that many career counselors use to help students develop interview skills but it can be equally beneficial to students who need extra initial support in order to communicate with professionals in a polished and confident manner.

As I counsel students on perfecting their networking skills in writing and in person, I find this process contributes to helping them mature and understand their own power  in securing internships, and best of all, it enhances their confidence as  they become more comfortable meeting and communicating with professionals.

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