By: Maddie Hadfield
As aspiring public relations professionals, we are about to embark on a journey that is built solely off of networking and connections. A stigma stands that not only do we have to obtain both of these skills, but also perfect them. In the public relations industry, it is essential to know how to properly network. Networking allows individuals to create connections with others, broaden your portfolio, as well as open doors up to numerous other opportunities. For beginners like me, this all must seem impossible. These practical tips that will be shared can clear up some of these reservations you may be holding.
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Whether it be attending a networking event or simply introducing yourself to someone you don’t know, allow yourself to do so. By doing this, you’re building your network. You will gain new knowledge or insight that you didn’t have before as well as make connections that you could possibly use in the near future. Be sure to take notes on your phone to remember things about a certain job position or person. This will help you to establish connections and make a good impression of yourself.
Maintain an online presence
Developing an online social media presence is key in networking. For those individuals who get nervous introducing themselves in person, this may benefit you for when it eventually comes time to meet in person. Having updated social media platforms that are professional in all aspects is essential. In job search areas, employers will throw out a prospective employee’s resume if their media presence is unprofessional in any way. Platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook are regularly used to connect with others and establish an idea of the individual you are. Friending employers or employees from PR companies is a great way to start. By reaching out to these individuals or even having them see your profile, it could allow you to get an “in” at a potential job listing. Developing a personal website or an online portfolio is a great start as well.
Avoid becoming a salesperson
When attending a networking event, it is crucial to steer clear of “selling yourself”. You are not there to tell them your whole life story or to highlight things from your resume. The goal of these events is to establish a connection with a professional. As an individual, it is your job to gain new knowledge about that professional and their job title or their company. Do some research prior to the event to gain knowledge about some of the professionals. Bringing up that information while talking to them or asking specific questions with that information will make you stand out. This might prompt the professional to give you their personal card or ask you to coffee to discuss further information about you specifically. Make sure to save that information for those specific times, not at an event.
Follow-Up after initial conversation
Another practical tip you should use to network is following up after connecting with a professional. Not only is it courteous to do so, but it may put you at an advantage. This professional took time out of their day to have a conversation with you, so reaching out to them is the least you can do. Sending them a thank you via email or in a handwritten note is perfect. You must make sure it is personal. Include details of what you took away from the conversation or what you enjoyed the most. It could even entail shared interests between you and the professional. Make sure to also send the thank you within 24-48 hours prior to the conversation. This will establish and reinforce your professional image. It may also hold you at an advantage and allow the professional to remember you for future job positions, etc.
After reading this blog, what other best practices do you follow when it comes to networking? Be sure to comment your suggestions below and don’t forget to reinforce these practical tips into your everyday routine. It will allow you to excel in these areas, all while shaping you into a PR professional for the future.