Who You Know Really Does Count

In a field like PR, you are expected to be a good talker.  This puts a lot of pressure on aspiring publicists to be excellent networkers.  Conversation is an excellent way to show off those “strong verbal communication” skills we all boast on our resumes and it is the first impression you leave with someone who could be or connect you to your future employer.

Anxiety aside, networking is the most effective way to find a job (especially in an economy that has everyone on the hunt).  These contacts are crucial.  If they cannot hire you themselves, there is always the chance that they can recommend you or get you an interview somewhere else.  It is very important for students to attend networking events, events hosted by local professional organizations, conferences and informational interviews to meet new people and to take the first step in building a relationship.

Knowing how necessary it is to shake as many hands as possible does not make it any easier.  I was completely unprepared for my first networking event, Philadelphia Social Media Day.  I was not sure what to expect and was not willing to “bug people”, so I didn’t have so much as a business card to hand out (a quick tip I learned to get out of this predicament for all smart phone users: save your own information as a contact and attach it to an email, ask the person you are introducing yourself to for their email address and send them your information that way).  It is important to always be prepared with a business card and aim to meet as many people as you can.  Don’t think of networking as being annoying, think of it as a mutual opportunity.  You may be able to help this person out later on.

At PRSSA National Conference, I received some very useful networking tips from a professional named Mike Brown.  He covered all the bases from initiating conversation to following up.  Here they are:

  1. Introduce myself – “I’m Margaret DeGennaro.  Good to meet you.  (Get their name and if you don’t hear it, apologize and ask again; you’ll need it.) I’m currently an undergraduate student at Drexel Univeristy interning at ______ at the moment.”
  2. Make the conversation about “THEM.”  Get them talking! Ask questions like where do you work?  What is your job?  What kind of business are you in?
  3. How did you get into this type of work?
  4. What brings you here today?
  5. Listen and Follow Up – ask the person for more information based on one of the answers you’ve gotten from the previous questions via email

Of course, it is also important to maintain appropriate eye contact and not interrupt them if they are going in depth in response to one of your questions.  If you don’t get to ask everything you were hoping to ask, you can always include this in your email.  End the conversation whenever you are satisfied, but if you are at a networking event, remember you are both there to meet people.  Simply say, “I’d really love to talk more about this with you.  Do you have a card?  Would you mind if I emailed you later this week?”

In addition to networking at events, remember  you can also utilize social media to expand your resources!

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