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Maintaining Relationships (Even If You Say No)

work relationships
Andy C. Ng
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Published on September 5, 2014

The weekend before my last week at JPMorgan I apathetically scrolled through my Instagram feed hoping to find something cute or worth liking. A friend at Barnard College had shared a snapshot of her desk, decorated with little cards and envelopes. “Remember to write your thank-you cards as you finish up your internships!” she reminded her online fans. Peering across my bedroom, I noticed an old box of cards from Papyrus. Nervously pulling it open, I found nothing left and promptly put on my running shoes, and hurried out the door.

That night I meticulously wrote thoughtful notes. Some were to my internship managers, others were for individuals who were kind enough to share advice during much needed coffee breaks. Every person receiving a note was someone who helped to shape my first summer in banking, let alone the corporate world. I wanted to impart a physical reminder of my appreciation, something that took time and care, and whose meaning spoke louder than the ping of a new email in your Outlook inbox.

Your colleagues are people you depend on. Sure, hard work and a genuine smile impressed during interviews, and focus and a willingness to ask questions contribute to better work (and hopefully great evaluations), but no matter where you’re working, the ability to establish a network is like life or death. In the midst of an intense internship it’s easy to forget that your time with the company does have a limit. And even if you are extended an offer to return, the early relationships you build with others can only accelerate your growth. Your network enriches your experience with more intimate learning, connecting you to the potential opportunities that might fit you better. It also makes work a lot more fun – getting to know your co-workers is comparable to making friends in your econ lecture. There’s someone you can simply have a conversation with or even go out with when the work’s all over.

Let’s get this straight – writing thank-you cards does not guarantee a network. To be honest, getting yourself out there isn’t always the easiest thing, but remembering that as interns, people are eager and willing to chat and help you, eases the process. When I began working at JPMorgan in June, I asked my team who they thought I should meet, which lines of business I should inquire about. Through a few courteous email intros and networking lunches, I met with a couple handfuls of people throughout the summer, asked questions (both about work and about them), and followed up like you’re supposed to.

But I continued to follow up with updates about what I was learning and accomplishing in my role on the Business Banking team. It wasn’t all about me though – I asked how these people were doing, if they were able to make it out to the beach like they had planned, or read that New York Times article about why students shouldn’t go to the university they attended. Little efforts like this remind people of who you are and the time they shared with you.

Flash forward to the end of the summer. I’ve sent periodic emails and now my time with the firm is coming to a close. I deliver my thank-you cards in person, shake hands, receive a few bear hugs and promise to stay in touch. And even though I ultimately declined my full-time offer, I had completed my internship on good terms both in my assignments and with individuals I can continue to rely on for advice and future connections. By presenting myself honestly and spending time to form and sustain relationships with those around me, I avoided burning any bridges and can always look to JPMorgan in the future without hesitation.

Andy C. Ng

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