If you are a business student, chances are you will have been extolled the virtues of networking at least once. What they say is certainly true; networking allows you to make connections with people that you may otherwise never meet, and many opportunities that you may not otherwise be able to obtain can arise. It can be intimidating, though, and networking events can be an uncomfortable experience, especially if you’re new to networking. Co-op, however, provides a fantastic opportunity to develop genuine, meaningful, long-lasting connections with new people in a relatively safe environment.
Networking is at the heart of the culture of SAP, where I spent my second and third co-op terms as an Intern, Translation Project Coordinator at the Vancouver office. There are plenty of networking opportunities available for colleagues to connect.
Networking is encouraged at the orientation session to all new hires, full-time and interns/co-ops alike. For instance, they run "coffee corners" and "networking lunches".
“Coffee corners” are organized for all employees, providing them the opportunity to meet and connect with colleagues from different offices. Coffee corners are usually organized when senior colleagues are visiting from other offices. They provide opportunities for the visiting colleague to meet local employees and speak on topics of interest to them. Conversely, local employees are able to receive updates on company initiatives, and ask the visiting colleague questions.
The “networking lunch” is an initiative for colleagues from across the office to get together and network over lunch break. It organized through a "networking lunch" web application that helps to organize the lunches. Employees can sign up themselves, or get other employees to sign them up. Within the application, employees define days and times they are available for lunch, as well as define who they would like to meet for lunch (new employees or employees they already know). Based on the parameters employees defined, the web application then matches employees together, and sends out meeting invites. At the Vancouver office, colleagues bring their own lunches and meet in a large meeting. The colleagues rotate and chat with each other over lunch!
The Vancouver office also has a number of grassroots community groups, such as the Vancouver Business Women’s Network, and the Green Team, that allow employees from different areas to get together and collaborate on a variety of initiatives and events.
SAP employees also have the opportunity to connect with external customers and members of the community, through its customer-facing events and corporate social responsibility initiatives, respectively. I was able to connect with other SAP employees, as well as members of the Vancouver academic community, through the GirlSmarts program, a partnership with UBC that inspires pre-teen girls to explore technology.
The SAP Vancouver intern community is also very proactive with networking. Weekly networking lunches are organized to allow interns from various teams, divided by department and within departments, to get to know one another. A sub-team within the Intern Committee, the Career Development and Networking team, of which I was a member, organizes special coffee corners and workshops specifically for the interns. Through these coffee corners and workshops, we have the opportunity to meet and interact with senior SAP Vancouver employees, as well as learn career development strategies, such as how to improve our networking skills.
I highly encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to network while on co-op. You never know when the contacts you make and relationships you foster can lead to opportunities in the future. I know several SAP interns that were able to land full-time positions only a few months into their internships. How? They harnessed the power of networking.
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