With the holiday season right around the corner, now is an appropriate time to remind you about a little game I like to call “Who do you know?” Okay, calling it a game may be overselling it a bit, but hear me out.
When it comes to landing a great internship or job, you’ve probably heard people say, “It’s all about who you know.” This has truth to it. Strong connections with the right people can open a lot of doors. But what if you don’t know the right people?
First of all, I challenge that you are likely connected to more people than you think you are. And second, if you are headed home for the holiday break, now is the time to connect with people you haven’t seen in a while.
That’s exactly why I’m dubbing this version of “Who do you know?” as the Holiday Networking Edition. As you prepare to head home for the holidays I’m sharing three ways you can work on expanding your network, and subsequently open up doors for internship opportunities. Read up on them now so that you’re prepared to implement some of these tactics during your upcoming holiday breaks.
Connect with family & family friends
If you’re not having the right conversations with your family members (and family friends) you are potentially leaving some great opportunities on the table. When was the last time you shared your professional goals with a family member? Like really shared?
Even if you are still exploring potential career paths, you should be sharing your thought process with the people closest to you. Not only can they help you gain clarity on some of your ideas, but they also might be able to connect you to the right people or opportunities.
Sometimes your family members are able to put you in touch with a contact in their network immediately. Other times they may meet someone a few months later and provide an introduction then.
On the flip side, if you never share anything with them, how do you expect them to help you out? How do you expect to ever benefit from their personal and professional networks? They aren’t mind readers.
They aren’t spending all of their time thinking about you and your career pursuits. It is your responsibility to engage in conversation with them and bring them up to speed. Engage your family and friends, and then continue to update them as your professional goals evolve.
Action steps for you:
- Craft and practice your personal pitch. Develop a concise way to explain to others what you are looking for. What type of internship are you hoping to secure? When are you looking to gain this experience? How can others be of help to you on your journey?
- Explore your family members’ connections on LinkedIn. Think about who you will see over the holiday break, and then do some pre-work to look into their network. Are there specific people in their network that you would like an introduction to? Anyone with the industry or companies you are hoping to intern for? The more specific you are with your asks, the easier it will be for people to say yes and help you out.
Connect with your neighbor on the airplane
For those of you that have an airplane ride (or two) in order to get home for the holidays, you have an extra opportunity to make some new connections. Get to know the people sitting next to you on the airplane.
I know it’s annoying when you have someone chatting you up for an entire plane ride, so I’m not suggesting you be that person. However, I am suggesting that you smile, say hello and try to engage the person in some brief conversation.
You never know who is sitting next to you on an airplane — who they work for, what they’ve accomplished in their career, or what company they may run. You also never know who they know.
So what do you have to lose by engaging in a quick conversation and practicing your personal pitch? Everyone loves to help a college student. Your neighbor on the airplane might be the golden ticket to the internship opportunity you’re after.
Action steps for you:
- Craft and practice your personal pitch. Just like with your family members, you should be able to concisely share your story and goals with people. In addition, you want to practice active listening with the people you meet on an airplane. Be interested in what they have to say and ask thoughtful questions of them. You want to leave them impressed by the interaction they just had with you.
- Connect with your new airplane pal on LinkedIn. If you have a valuable conversation with someone, you should follow up with a LinkedIn request and a short, friendly message. Let them know that you enjoyed the conversation on the plane and look forward to staying in touch. Remember, you never know who they know or at what point in the future they may come across a great opportunity for you.
Connect with people on LinkedIn
This last one applies to everyone. Even if you aren’t going home for the holidays to see family and friends, you will likely find yourself with some free time during the holiday break. Use some of this free time to focus on expanding your network and searching for internship opportunities on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network, and you need to be on it. Period. It is one of the first places that employers and recruiters will go to look you up. Especially once you submit an application for an internship.
LinkedIn is also a great place for you to explore what is out there. You can look up profiles of specific individuals you admire, and learn a lot about how they got to where they are today. Plus, you can make professional connections just by reaching out — no introduction from a friend or family member required.
Action steps for you:
- Create and/or update your LinkedIn profile. If you’d like some help, I have a free training that walks you through everything you should be doing as a student on LinkedIn. Even if you already have a LinkedIn profile, I can guarantee there is room for improvement. Check out the training to learn how to optimize your LinkedIn profile and tailor it to the types of positions you are looking for.
- Utilize LinkedIn’s alumni tool. Search for people from your school that are in the industry or companies that you are interested in. Then start reaching out and asking if they would be willing to do a 20 minute informational interview with you over the phone. Lining up phone calls with professionals in your area of interest = time well spent on your holiday break.
So who do you know? I encourage you to take some time to dig into one (or all three) of these tactics over your holiday break. You’ll come out ahead if you do.
I know it takes time, and I know it’s probably one of the last things you want to think about during your break, but it will all be worth it. The more connections you make now, the more doors that will open later. Your future self will thank you. Happy holidays!