1. Be prepared, you never know when you will make a potential connection.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.
What can you offer future connections? Think about your previous and current experiences and what skills you have gained. How can these skills be transferred to other contexts? Future employers are interested in how you could benefit their company, so this is a good exercise to do, especially if you plan on finding a job after returning to your home country.
Prepare your "elevator speech": An elevator speech is a short description that includes your experience, skills, and future goals. The key is a quick delivery, so in the time it takes for two people to ride an elevator together, you should be able to clearly articulate what you do. Write out your pitch and practice, so when the times comes, you can make a confident and natural delivery. For more information on the elevator speech, check out this video.
Business cards: Business cards still hold a special place in our technology-dependent society. Business cards are more than just a way to exchange contact information, they help you get your name out there and establish a connection with a potential important contact. When you give out your business card, be sure to ask for a business card in return! If you do not receive business cards at your internship or training program, you can print your own personal cards that simply list your name and contact details so that you will have something you can give to people to make it easier to keep in touch. Doing a Google search for "free business cards" will provide you with plenty of inexpensive options.
2. Get your name out there and connect with as many people as you can.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the ultimate social media platform for networking. If you do not have a profile yet, you should create one immediately. If you already have a profile, assess your level of activity and think about ways to become more active. The more active you are, the more connections you can make. Read our guide on how to make the most of LinkedIn.
Professional Associations: Similar to LinkedIn, these groups allow you to connect with other professionals in your field. Through these groups, you can share resources, attend events, and just broaden your knowledge on current industry news. Ask your coworkers if they are part of any professional associations or trade organizations, and chances are you will discover one that is right for you. Some may have membership fees, but some may either be free or offer student rates. Don't let a high membership fee discourage you from using this method of networking.
Participant Network: Be sure to join and utilize the Career Training USA Participant Network! There are many interns and trainees just like you looking to make connections with other like-minded people, socially or professionally. To join this group, please follow this link.
Smart phone applications: For those of you who own a smart phone, here is an article on the 12 best networking apps.
After you complete our program, join the InterExchange Career Training USA Alumni LinkedIn group.
Image by Chris Potter courtesy of StockMonkeys.com
3. Attend events in your local area.
Professional associations and trade organizations are great resources for industry-specific events. Here are some other networks that offer events all over the U.S.:
Chambers of Commerce: These are local organizations geared towards advancing the interests of businesses. Chambers of Commerce have local chapters all over the U.S. and offer events often for the sole purpose of networking. Check out the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to learn more, but also look for a local Chamber of Commerce in your area.
Young Nonprofit Professional Networks. The name says it all. Find a local chapter near you here and look up their upcoming events.
4. Whenever you make a connection, follow up!
Informational interview: Once you establish a connection with someone, you may want to consider reaching out and asking if they are willing to have a brief meeting or phone call with you, so you can learn more about the field and what they do. Think about these interviews as a way to learn and build relationships, not as a way to get a job. Once you set up an informational interview, do some research on whom you are interviewing and what they do, so you can have an efficient and productive conversation. Below are some suggestions for questions you could ask during an informational interview:
- Can you tell me how you got to this position?
- What do you like most about what you do, and what would you change if you could?
- How do people break into this field?
- What does a typical career path look like in your industry?
- What do you do to keep up with developments in your field, and are there any professional or trade associations I should connect with?
Thank-you notes: After any connection you make, especially after an informational interview, always, always, always follow up with a thank-you note. A hard copy typed note is the most formal and usually the most appropriate after an interview. Handwritten notes are more personal and may be appropriate for brief notes to individuals with whom you felt a connection. Email is appropriate when that has been your means of communication with the person you want to thank or when you want to follow up in the most expedient way.
5. Keep an open mind and have fun!
We want you to get the most out of your time in the United States, and we hope these tips will provide some assistance.
InterExchange Career Training USA is a top J-1 Visa sponsor for university students and young professionals who have already secured internships or training programs with companies in the U.S. If you still need to find an internship or training program in the U.S., check out our resources and start the J-1 Visa sponsorship process early.