Networking and Building Connections: Insights from a High School Optum Intern

February 11, 2021


Twin Cities

This is an image of Muna Mohamed, a Genesys Works intern.
Muna Mohamed is a Class of 2021 intern who currently holds a position at Optum.

By Muna Mohamed, Class of 2021 Young Professional

During a global pandemic, networking and building connections have become a challenge for many of us working at home. The biggest challenge of working at home is not being able to experience the corporate workplace culture and having those in-person connections. We are all human and we need that daily interaction with others, especially in the workplace. Even those small chats, stories, or even checkups with colleagues and other professionals are forms of healthy social interaction needed to maintain a valued community. With the transition from in-person communities to digital work-life, my experience with networking and building professional networks has been quite an impactful experience. With its highs and lows, I have found that creating communities and maintaining professional networks is an essential aspect of leading a successful internship.

Making personal connections

Success in an internship is largely attributed to maintaining personal connections. While learning new skills and managing tasks within a company is not an easy feat, the intellectual abilities and mindsets we gain in our internships are significantly improved from the communities we interact with and the connections that we build. For example, as an intern at Optum, I have had the opportunity to reach out to multiple professionals that have similar interests in career options and work fields. Through those interactions, I was able to share ideas that have strongly developed my intellect and pushed me to explore and pursue my passions. When networks are created in your community, it allows you to sustain long-term relationships and mutual trust with your connections. I’ve found that participating in social events, interacting with blog posts and online communities, and even reaching out to professionals with similar interests have helped me improve my professional skills and gain more recognition across the company.

Building communities and maintaining personal connections have also been a great way to receive support and feedback from the company. These connections can help you manage your challenges effectively by either giving you advice or linking you to the right professional to help you overcome challenges and pursue creativity and passions.

Reach out to a colleague

Although Genesys Works skills training did a great job of showcasing the importance of building professional networks in the workplace, the biggest challenge is utilizing these skills during your internship. The next step for someone interested in boosting their networking skills is to reach out to at least one person in your workplace. Again, even having a small conversation with a colleague is a great start to making a connection! A great tip is to always exchange information with the individual. Part of building a supportive and interactive community is following up with the conversations and ideas that you had. By exchanging contacts and information, you can start building a connection with that individual, and overall, boost your networking skills.

It’s not just about your career

Lastly, remember that networking and building communities within the workplace is not just about furthering your career. You can network strictly to meet interesting people and explore new interests and passions. Sometimes, you might not end up with a breakthrough opportunity or an informational interview with a higher individual but rather a new friend that you can support and rely on during these unprecedented times. Networking and building communities are indeed necessary, especially as an intern, and it can be a refreshing way to learn new skills and explore different parts of the workplace. As an intern at Optum, I got the chance to improve my networking skills and build new connections across the company. Building personal connections was a great way for me to learn new skills and gain opportunities from an early start. My advice is to enjoy your time as an intern, and always communicate with others!

Muna Mohamed is a Class of 2021 intern who currently holds a position at Optum. She is also a student ambassador for the Genesys Works program, seeking to recruit the next class of young professionals from her high school, Eden Prairie High School.

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