Throughout the summer, I interned at WGBH in Boston – a wide-ranging company most known for their radio station and shows like Arthur and Curious George. My internship was in the education department, preparing documents and videos for the PBS Learning Media website for teachers (http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/). This experience allowed me to meet many of the employees in various departments throughout the building. I’ve seen presentations for interns and company-wide gatherings, job-shadowed, met for lunch, went ‘for coffee’ (I learned that even if you don’t drink coffee, you can get something else, haha), and even had elevator conversations (the elevator pitch about yourself is more casual in real life than in class, but don’t be fooled – it is REAL!).
My supervisor always encouraged us to meet others, but she noticed me in particular – saying no intern has networked to this extent in the past twenty years she has been there! I was really honored when she asked me to write a letter to future WGBH interns about networking. I wanted to share it with you too! Whichever internship you embark on, I hope this helps!
What Networking is NOT:
I feel like there is this misconception about “networking” that I must address before going on. Networking is NOT directly asking for a job or another internship and it’s NOT expecting to immediately get one either. It’s NOT being fake or using people just to “get to the top”. It is NOT a competition (My fellow interns and I became friends and are happy for each other’s successes!)
Where to start:
Your supervisor can help put you in touch with someone of similar interests. “I’m studying ——- at ——– school and I’m thinking about maybe doing ——— when I graduate” is a phrase I have learned can go a long way when first meeting someone. My career counselor at the Amica Center, Barbara Gregory, put it this way – just start by putting your interests out into the universe and you will be surprised at what comes back to you. She was right. I was comforted to find out that sometimes even if you show just a little interest, people will be willing to meet you halfway and prompt you to fill in those blanks anyway because they are curious about YOUR story!
Now what do I say? What do I look for?
Ask about their story! How did the person you are talking to decide this is what they wanted to do? Everyone had to start somewhere. I was surprised to learn that even people in similar positions come from very different backgrounds and motivations. The key is to see similarities among the people you talk to, so pay attention! Sometimes the phrasing is exactly the same without them even realizing it! For example, two people I talked to from the science department at WGBH each mentioned something along the lines of, “Overtime I realized that I liked TALKING about the science more than I actually liked doing it,” which is something I can now think about within myself.
If you find yourself talking to someone in a role you won’t necessarily want to be in someday, they may know someone who does, and taking the time to learn their journey can still be very relatable, entertaining, or inspirational! Don’t ever discount talking with someone just because they aren’t necessarily in your “dream job.”
What else can I do?
A good way to take a short break from your work is to walk to the nearby cubicles just to say “hi, what are you working on today?” People love to share their projects with you (it’s something they are excited about). It shows you care and you learn a lot! I was glad I did this throughout the summer because not only did it make each day more fun, but also when a new project came up towards the end of the summer, I was the one asked to help on it.
But what if I’m shy….
I’ve learned how to use the email system to ask people to lunch by sending a calendar invite with accompanying message (since that is how the culture at WGBH works), but most of the time, the person will ask YOU to lunch if you start talking with or emailing them. For example, I had the opportunity to job shadow the producer of the television show Point Taken. I had asked her what project was next. She said a woodworking show. A few weeks later, I emailed her just to say hi and ask how the woodworking show was going. I was honestly curious and hoped it was going well for her. I didn’t expect that she would ask me to lunch, but she did! I ended up learning so much about the production field from that conversation and she even offered to take a look at my video projects.
What Networking Actually IS:
Networking IS finding similar interests. Networking IS sharing stories and resources (websites, conferences) with each other – it’s a two way street! Networking IS asking for advice. Networking IS learning (even things you can’t learn in a textbook). Networking IS researching the person’s background ahead of time on LinkedIn to know what you can ask about. Networking IS following through by sending thank you notes to show appreciation for time and interest put aside just for YOU.
It’s all worth it!
Whenever I think about being shy, I just remind myself of what an AMAZING opportunity it is to even be here at WGBH and I appreciate it every day! I’m glad I decided to take chances because now I have a bunch of great mentors I can keep in touch with throughout my journey! It would be a disservice to yourself (and even those around you) to not take advantage. Networking IS making the most of your time here and is something I have learned can be fun and genuine. I hope you participate too!