Within an organization, networking is a waste of time if you are not considered a performer. Focus your time during your internship on performing beyond expectations.
Michael has co-authored three books; Mission Critical: Unlocking the Value of Veterans in the Workforce, and two editions of a military transition guidebook titled Business Networking for Veterans. While attending business school, he founded the FourBlock Foundation to help bridge the gap between returning service members and the business community.
April 13, 2020
My first corporate work experience post-military was an internship at a media company. A few months into the internship, my direct supervisor told me that I was one of the best interns that she ever had. Well, I certainly hope so! I was 28 years old and had just left the Marine Corps. I replied that I am disappointed that I am not the best!
For many veterans, their first experience in the corporate world is some sort of internship. And it is no secret that most all interns are looking to parlay their internships into full-time positions. With that mission in mind, many focus their time during the internship networking with as many people at the firm as possible in order to identify opportunities and increase their chances of getting a full-time offer. This is a huge mistake.
Your number one priority as an intern or newly hired employee is to perform. Period. And not just perform, but to be the top performer at whatever you are asked to do. Whether it is putting together complex modeling formulas in excel or putting stickers on DVD cases, like I had to do, you want to be the go-to person for your direct supervisor; you want to be known as someone who gets things done. As a veteran intern, the expectations on how you will perform are already higher than the average intern: you are older, more experienced, and more mature. If you are not out-performing the average twenty-year-old college kid, don't expect to receive any full-time offers.
Here is why focusing on performance is so important: it doesn't matter whom you network with at the company. Everyone that you talk to is going to call or email your direct supervisor and ask how you are doing. Your fate at the company will be determined by what he or she says about your performance. It does not matter how much you network, if your manager has other than exemplary things to say about you, you are simply wasting your time because no one wants to hire an average performer. So, your number one priority is to earn the respect and sponsorship of your direct supervisor. If your direct supervisor is willing to put his or her name and reputation on the line for your behalf, then more times than not the company will find a way to keep you on board.
The veteran community within the company is very small as well. Most of them talk to one another, especially about any new veteran interns or hires. They want to support you and have your back, but they will also be harder on you than the average intern or new hire, which is to be expected!
Your mission as an intern is to build a solid, performance-based relationship with your manager or direct supervisor. If you make his or her life easier, make them look good, or alleviate their workload in any way, they will fight to keep you on board in some capacity. And in many cases, particularly in the veteran community, if the company cannot hire a top-performing intern because of financial reasons, veteran employees will call their veteran associates at client, and even competing companies, to make sure you are successful in gaining full-time employment. But none of this happens unless you earned the respect and sponsorship of your managers through your performance.
Within an organization, networking is a waste of time if you are not considered a performer. Focus your time during your internship on performing beyond expectations. Let your supervisor take the lead in networking for you and you will ultimately be successful obtaining full-time employment.
Please check out the FourBlock Podcast and our interview with Citigroup Managing Director and Retired Army Colonel John Tien discuss his twenty-four years of incredible service, the impact his time in the Army had on his family, and the similarities and differences between leading troops in combat and teammates at Citi. This is a fantastic episode for veterans learning how to most effectively transition military leadership principles to a corporate environment or civilians seeking to better understand military service.