Student Post: Reflections on Networking and Staying Motivated
By Gloria Shao
New York University, Class of 2021
I, like many of you reading this article, am a student whose summer plans were impacted by COVID-19. I am an international student, and I am happy to be working as a strategy and business development intern at TABS Score after having two other internship offers revoked. TABS Score is a venture startup, aiming to provide all types of businesses with risk management and assessment benchmarks. At the same time, I am working as email marketing coordinator at GC4W, a female empowerment NGO aiming to help women with self-employment, which is a continuation of the work I’ve done with my chapter of Lean In as an undergraduate in China.
I am an advocate for women, a digital marketer, and a data analyst. And now, I am going one step further as a career whisperer, here to tell you that we cannot always count on luck to get what we want—but we can always count on persistence.
I have always believed that circumstances make the man. Before I came here and started my MS in integrated marketing, I was studying the humanities. The reason I decided to choose integrated marketing is simple; I’ve spent my whole life looking for ways to connect business and people. And this curiosity has stayed with me throughout my first year at NYU, from starting my career in public relations and media to shifting to digital marketing. The more I learn about digital marketing, the more curious I become on how to apply marketing analytics to different industries. This is part of the reason I was excited to intern at TABS Score this summer; it will be a great starting point for me to get to know the B2B market.
I got my current internship offer through the normal application process. After filling out over 120 applications and sending out over 60 cold emails, I ended up getting seven phone screens, and I finally got three offers.
Before I came to New York, I had been informed hundreds of times that networking is “everything” in your career. No matter which parties or workshops I attended in Manhattan, I could tell that this “networking” idea was hugely popular. However, I struggled with it a lot at the beginning due to the conflict between Eastern and Western culture. I am from China, which is a high-context culture. That means that communication can be more reserved, and it usually requires more time to understand the true meaning behind a person’s words.
However, when I moved to New York last year, I had to adjust to a more low-context culture, where everything tends to be expressed in a more straightforward and simple way that doesn’t require too much reading between the lines. This actually caused me a lot of trouble when networking. It took me months of practice to understand how to network and to become agile as I balanced the two cultures.
When I reflect on those months, one of the important things I want to share with my fellow international students is to try to be less self-conscious about how you speak and focus more on what you want to say. People are not going to hire you purely based on how well you speak English. It’s more about what you can bring to the table.
Because of all this, I have complicated feelings towards networking. Networking is helpful because it offers an efficient channel to prove your ability in front of people who are either directly or indirectly hiring for this role. It can therefore save a lot of time and steps for both candidates and employers. However, networking only works when the candidate and the employer share a certain level of professional trust. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time and energy for both parties.
As I mentioned, two of my three internship offers got revoked because of COVID-19. When my first one got revoked, it was a normal morning in March. Everything was perfectly fine until I received an email that said, “Due to COVID-19, we’re restructuring our leadership team … and we regret to inform you that all of our summer internships have been cut.” I’d never had an internship revoked before, and that day was the most depressing. After that, I reallocated my time to heavily focus on doing online applications and revising my resume and cover letters instead of networking.
In general, my emotions from March to May looked like this:
Here’s how I prepared: Before every interview, I would eliminate less important tasks to better focus on interview preparation. Because my interviews coincided with final exams, I prioritized exam preparation and interview preparation. I also suspended job applications two days before each interview, so that I would be less distracted. One of the amazing things I realized when I made the image above is that with each opportunity that got revoked, I felt less and less depressed. It took three days for me to recover in March, but in May, it was less than one day. That’s because I used this as a way to increase my resilience.
I no longer blame myself for not doing the best at everything. And part of that calmness comes from all the support I’ve received from my peers within and outside of NYU. When I spoke with them, I realized that qualifications aren’t the only factor in getting rejected. Rejection is part of life. From a hiring standpoint, every company has its preferences. Sometimes it’s about culture fit; sometimes it’s about school year or location; and sometimes it’s about your identity. There are different reasons that contribute to whether a student’s offer is rejected or revoked, and it’s not any one reason that you’re not qualified.
Now, I have officially started my new summer internship at TABS Score. From day one, they have offered each intern tons of flexibility, so we get to determine our duties based on what we want to improve as well as what TABS Score needs. Looking back, I am thankful that I was able to take a leap of faith and stick to my intuition.