Does talking to business professionals make you nervous? Do you triple-check your emails before hitting send? Communicating with professionals as a student can be nerve-wracking. Fortunately, you’re not alone. Current UBWA executives Gretchen Stommel and Kelly Lao have faced the challenges of working with professionals as a student. Through their internship experiences, they’ve learned a lot about office communication, networking, and representing a company to clients. Both women shared some great advice for putting your best foot forward.
Gretchen Stommel is a second-year Finance major with a minor in Computer & Information Science. She serves as Vice President of Professional Development. This year, she led Business Bootcamp, a 6-week professional development course. Her favorite UBWA memory was hanging-out with members at the UBWA tailgate. This past summer, Gretchen worked at Hyland Software as a Project Management Intern in the office of global excellence.
Through her internship at Hyland Software, Gretchen learned a lot about communication and expectations in an office setting. Some of her biggest takeaways were to “never [be] afraid to ask questions (think of how honored you feel when someone wants your expertise!), always ask what abbreviations and acronyms mean, and do your best to figure out what warrants an email versus an instant message in the company.” While we learn about professionalism in our business core classes, it can be difficult to put these principles to practice until you’re in the business environment. One major advantage of internships is gaining first-hand experience pertaining to office norms and professional communication.
Kelly Lao is a third-year Marketing major with minors in Media Production and Analysis & Music, Media, and Enterprise. She serves as Vice President of Programming. Her favorite UBWA memory was wearing PJ’s, eating snacks, and hearing about the important women in members’ lives during a special Women’s Week internal meeting. She’s passionate about Social Media and Event Planning. She loves to see her projects “make a positive impact on people’s lives - bringing them excitement and happiness.” The summer of her freshman year, Kelly interned at Degy Entertainment as a Virtual Event intern. As part of her internship, Kelly was responsible for coordinating with large buyers, clients, and artists. As Kelly states, “I was extremely nervous to be working alongside high-impact, high-profile people as I haven’t done it before.” Representing a company to prospective clients can take the challenge of communicating with professionals to another level. Kelly explains that giving tours to buyers and clients, “became natural to me as I knew what I was doing through hours and hours of practice.” According to Kelly, practice is key to feeling confident when working with professionals.
Both Gretchen and Kelly had some great advice about putting your best foot forward when connecting with business professionals. As Gretchen explains, “People often don’t remember specific details but rather how you made them feel and therefore providing a sense of professionalism can leave a better ‘taste’.” Professionalism is more than just knowing whether to wear a button-down or a suit. Professionalism is about conducting yourself in a way that shows respect for others and the task at hand.
One way to show respect is to take an interest in the people you meet while networking. As Kelly recommends, “Treat them as a potential long-lasting relationship rather than just a tool for success.” Asking professionals about their life outside of business can make networking more fun and help you make better connections. While communicating with professionals as a student can seem daunting, the best way to become a confident communicator is through experience. So don’t be afraid to introduce yourself or send that email; after all, professionals were once students too.