How to Network During your Engineering Internship

How to Network during engineering internships

Networking is an important part of any internship and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Part of being an intern is meeting people at your company. Making connections in your industry can help you decide where you want your engineering career to go and will likely help you secure a full-time job later down the line.

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What is Networking?

Networking is the practice of meeting and getting to know people in your industry.

There are many ways to network including LinkedIn and in-person meetings. This article will focus on learning how to network during your engineering internship.

Why is networking during your internship important?

There are several reasons why it’s important to network during your internships. First, it allows you to see other parts of the company you’re not usually exposed to. It’s good to get an idea of what other roles you might be interested in as an engineer.  

Networking is especially important if you do end up applying for a full-time position at the end of your internship. When you interview at the end of the internship, there will be a group of people that discuss the candidates and make the final decision. The more people that know you in that meeting, the better.

Networking can also help you secure a return internship offer if you are interested in one. By meeting more people, you are exposed to more teams. People are more likely to want an intern they know than a random one they’d be taking a chance on.

Who should you network with during your internship?

networking during engineering internship

The first step in networking is deciding who you want to network with. People at your company typically fall into one of three categories. They either work on your team, don’t work on your team, or are in a position of upper management. Each group should be treated differently, and we’ll discuss how to appropriately network with each group.

Networking with people on your team

Networking with people on your team or closely related teams is a great way to get your feet wet with networking. This works especially well if you’re in the beginning weeks of your internship.

Ask your manager who key people are that you will likely work with throughout your internship and set up meetings to get to know them. This gives you the opportunity to get to know the people you’ll be working with and it will make it less awkward if you end up needing something from them in the future. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than having to meet someone for the first time under the pretenses of needing something from them.

When it comes to networking with people you work directly with, use your judgment in determining the necessity of a formal meeting. If it’s someone you work with and talk to daily, a formal meeting may be overkill. On the other hand, if it’s someone you don’t know as well or expect to work with in the future, it may be the perfect setting to get to know them.

Networking with people not on your team

Networking with people outside of your department is a great way to get to know the other parts of the company and increase your exposure to other types of engineering.

Try to meet with people in various sectors of your company. It’s a good way to learn what other engineers do at your company and what your options could look like if you worked there full time. Meet with people from R&D, manufacturing, quality, sustaining, marketing, HR (it’s always a good idea to get on HR’s good side), and anything else you can think of. You never know who you’ll click with.

To get started, think of a field of engineering you’re interested in learning more about and approach your manager. They will probably know someone in that area they can connect you with. You should also be honest with your manager about your networking goals. They will probably have other people to suggest as well. This is a great starting point for meeting people.

*Another tip: when you meet with these initial people, ask them if they have recommendations for other people to meet with at the end of your meeting. This is a great way to continuously have people to network with.

Networking with upper management

It’s always good for the people in charge to know your name. Ask your manager to introduce you to the directors and senior directors on your team and arrange a meeting if possible. Often, they will have a 30-minute meeting or lunch with you.

As a rule of thumb, if the person you’re trying to network with has a secretary, you should not be emailing them directly. Email their secretary to arrange a meeting.

Don’t go too crazy with trying to meet the people in the highest positions, especially outside of your team. Meeting with people closer to your level is likely more beneficial to you at this point in your career.

How to network with people during your internship

So you’ve identified who you want to network with, but how do you actually go about networking? Networking can seem extremely intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to be! The benefit of being an intern is that most people WANT to get to know you and impart their wisdom on you. During an internship, the best way to network with people is through 30-minute 1:1 meetings.

1:1 Networking email template

Once you identify the person you want to meet, send an email asking to set up a meeting. Here is a template:

Hi [insert name of person],

My name is [insert name] and I’m an intern working on the [insert team name] team under [insert your managers name]. I got your name from [insert name of person that recommended this person]. I’m really interested in learning about [insert what they work on] and I was wondering if we could set up a 1:1 meeting. 

Thanks,
[your name]

Example:

Hi Alex, 

My name is Sarah and I’m an intern working on the implant manufacturing team under John Smith. I’ve been really interested in learning about what R&D is like at this company and John suggested you as a great person to talk to about this. I was wondering if we could set up a 30 minute 1:1 meeting?

Thanks,
Sarah

Questions to ask during your networking session

Once your networking meeting is set up, you want to make sure you are prepared for it. Always have a list of questions ready to ask during your meeting. Chances are your questions will lead to a naturally flowing conversation, but there’s nothing worse than awkward silence. Since you are the one that invited the person to the meeting, it’s up to you to lead it.

Here are some questions you can ask during your meeting:

  • Can you tell me a little about your team and what you do on a day-to-day basis?
  • How did you end up in the position you’re in now?
  • What do you think about the company and how does it compare to other companies you’ve worked at?
  • Are there any skills you learned in college that prepared you for the job? Any skills you wish you had learned?
  • What is your favorite project you’ve worked on? What was the hardest?
  • Where do you see your career going from here?
  • Why did you choose the leadership path over a technical one? (Or vice versa depending on who you’re talking to)
  • What are some things you like to do in the area?
  • What advice do you have for me?
  • Is there anyone you suggest I meet with at the company?

Again, these are just ideas to either get the conversation rolling or to pick it back up if it dies down. Think about what you genuinely want to know from the person and take it from there!

*Disclaimer: There is such a thing as over-networking. You don’t want to be so busy networking that it takes away from you doing your actual work. Start with aiming for 2 people a week.

Tips for being rememberable after your networking session

Once your meeting has ended, there are steps you can take to make sure that person remembers you. After all, the whole point of networking is to get to know people at your company! You don’t want them to forget about you as soon as the meeting ends.

Here are 4 tips for being rememberable after your networking session:

1. Send a follow-up message

Always send a follow-up message thanking them for their time. Reiterate how much you enjoyed learning about what they work on and getting to know them. Include a personal detail about what you talked about so it doesn’t seem like a cookie-cutter message that you just copy and pasted.

2. Add them on LinkedIn!

Growing your LinkedIn profile is important during your internship. Adding them on LinkedIn will allow you to keep tabs on them as their career progresses and vice versa.

3. Write notes on what you talked about

At the end of every networking meeting make sure you take a few notes about the meeting. Write down what they work on and little details about what you talked about. If you run into them in the future, simply recalling their name and details of the conversation will look very impressive. It shows the person you genuinely cared about the conversation, and it wasn’t just for personal gain.

4. Invite them to your end of internship presentation

If you do an end-of-internship presentation (which you should), invite everyone you met! This includes not only people you worked with but people you networked with, the person who recruited you, HR, and other interns. You never know who will be impressed with your work and feel inclined to want to keep you around.

Remember, networking is an important part of your engineering internship and shouldn’t be put on the back-burner. Hopefully, this article helped you learn how to start networking!


Read more

End of Internship Presentations – Everything you Need to Know

5 Steps to Acing your Engineering Internship

6 Ways to Make the Most of your Engineering Internship