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Stomping the Yard

Networking for the Game-Changing Internship

Our college blogger Kelly Fair shares networking tips for college students.
Credit: Thinkstock

Calling all college students!  Our new weekly column, Stomping the Yard, aims to help undergrads excel in their studies and social lives.  JETmag.com’s team of experts will show you how to get it done from the day you move into the dorms to the minute you step off campus for that first job. Submit questions and feedback for The Yard via digitalpitches@ebony.com.

We’ve all seen athletes rocking out with their headphones on in the last few-minutes before the game. In the same way their pre-game playlist motivates them to dominate the court, you should have one to get your mind on the game as well…the game of networking!

In preparation for your future career, you must get internships to build your portfolio and your resume. Networking can help you meet the right people and land a dream internship, but it’s no easy task and can be a challenge for many. You don’t want to seem too aggressive and it can be downright intimidating to talk to people you don’t know.

So, my recommendation is that you consider getting a playlist just like the athletes! What songs should you include? Well, I love some of these suggestions by journalist Heben Nigatu, to motivate you while networking in pursuit of your future career:

• Rick Ross- “Hustlin’”
• Kelis- “Bossy”
• DJ Khaled- “All I Do Is Win”
• MIMS- “This Is Why I’m Hot”
• Wacka Flocka- “Hard in Da Paint”
• Jay-Z- “Dirt Off Your Shoulder”

In addition to having motivational music to get you pumped up about networking, you have to think of great sources to help you. Try some of my suggestions below:

Credit: Thinkstock

Credit: Thinkstock

• College Career Fairs: Network with companies and potential employees right at your doorstep, and go to career fairs held on campus. It’s a great to meet a lot of companies when they are invested in recruiting students from your school. Your focus now should be on thinking how you can distinguish yourself from your classmates and present yourself as a solid candidate with potential.

• Professors: Having a strong relationship with your professor is not only helpful in getting good grades, but she can also refer you to people in her networks to help you get an internship.

• Alumni Associations: When you’re home on summer or winter breaks, check out if your local alumni chapter is having a meeting and plan to attend. Alumni who are active with these organizations are typically extremely supportive of students studying at their alma mater and will extend their networks and contacts to you. But be sure that follow-up with them and put your best foot forward to prove to them you’re worth their referral.

Credit: Thinkstock

Credit: Thinkstock

• Networks at Home: Whether they’re church members, old bosses, or family members, these are the people who have known you the longest and are most invested in your success. Keep up with the parishioners from your church and relatives by making a note to call every month. Have lunch or a cup of coffee with an old boss from your high school job on breaks and send him email updates. These people love to hear about how well you’re doing at school and will happily share advice, as well as contacts to help you get an internship, too!

• Cut Out the Middle Man: It never hurts to go straight to the source. This seems like a pretty obvious step, but it’s one that honestly most people won’t take because of their own intimidation or lack of knowledge. Contact the company’s human resources department and ask about internship opportunities. Just ask! Even if it doesn’t look like there is an established intern program, they may create a position just for you.

Credit: Thinkstock

Credit: Thinkstock

• Professional Associations: The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), National Association of Black Accountants are examples of professional associations that align with your career path and they exist in essentially every industry. These are great places to meet your future boss, hiring manager, and colleagues.

• Get a LinkedIn Profile: In last week’s column, my fellow “Yard Blogger” Dr. Shante Bishop provided you with the benefits of Linked In for college students, and guidelines on how to build your page. Be sure to check this out to assist you in networking

Reaching out to all these potential people to begin networking to get your college internship is one step, but you need to make sure you’re prepared to present yourself properly as you meet these individuals. Make sure you do these essentials: update your resume, references and portfolio; work on your email etiquette; perfect a confident personal introduction; and get your thank-you cards ready to send your new network for assisting you in earning your new game-changing internship!

I look forward to sharing more stories, and providing more experience, and I wish you well in your pursuit of college life on “The Yard” and beyond!

About Kelly Fair

Kelly Fair

Kelly Fair is the founder of the highly successful Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program that has served more than 600 girls 7-17 years old to be effective communicators, and career and community conscious leaders! This work has been supported by a network of 300+ volunteers from the Chicagoland community and area businesses such as Bloomingdale’s, Microsoft, ThoughtWorks and many more. You can follow Kelly on her blogand on Twitter at @KFairtheMentor.