In the field of public relations, networking will do all kinds of magical wonders for you. I’ve been told before that not only do those who have a better networks do better in their careers, but the jobs one will get out of college will also most likely depend on them. Contrary to popular belief, having people know you -rather than you knowing people- is what makes all the difference.
Think about your current network.. Is it leading you towards a possible job opportunity? Don’t think so? Fear not, I will share with you a few successful tips that I have learned on how to get going.
I started my own professional network last semester when I became a member of The University of Texas at Austin’s Public Relation’s Student Society of America, a student organization for those with an interest in public relations . Having public relations professionals come in and talk to us at our meetings, allowed me to learn about their success and gain insight on their knowledge. It seemed easy enough to ask for each of their business cards and think, “Yes! I’m building my network.” When in reality, it is not that easy at all.
“One of the biggest mistakes we make when we network is that we pride ourselves on all the people we know,” said Dr. John Daly, a UT Austin distinguished professor, in an online networking webcast. (I’m currently taking one of his courses, Interpersonal Communication Theory, and love it! I highly recommend it to all my fellow Longhorns.) “It doesn’t matter if you know a million people, if they don’t think of you when opportunities come up.”
Below I have noted a few key networking tips from Dr. Daly:
- Keep Connected. Never underestimate the value of simply connecting with someone. Every time you gain the knowledge of one person, you can gain their network as well! Don’t be afraid to meet new people. As an aspiring PR professional, communicating with people should be something you personally enjoy doing anyways.
- Keep In Touch Regularly. Out of touch, is out of mind! Smart networkers find excuses to never lose touch. Finding excuses to reconnect with people is so easy to do nowadays with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. The weird thing is, when you let people know what is going on in your life, they then feel some sense of responsibility for maintaining their relationship with you. However, if you get in touch with people only when you need them, it’s manipulative. Try not to be one of those people. Instead, be a good networker and get in touch before you need them.
- Keep Records- Stay Personal. When you meet people, create your own personal Rolodex cards- it’s the foundation of your network. On each card, write people’s contact information along with two individuating characteristics- things that make a person different in your mind from anyone else in the world. Whether it’s actually going out and getting a Rolodex, simply using your phone or computer, start your foundation now. Side note– if you do choose to go digital, remember to frequently back up your contacts. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
- Exercise Your Network- Use your network. Practice Dr. Daly’s investment theory: every time someone does a favor for you, it means that they are investing in you. The more you personally invest in someone, the more you are committed to their success. Even though it might not be your thing to do, know that there is no harm in asking people for favors. Put your big ego aside for a second and just ask! When people respond and give you those favors, recognize their investment. And yes, you do owe them in return.
As a PR student, I try my best to constantly remind myself about these tips. I mean, you never really know who you may meet or run into on any given day… Right? One last tip I want to be sure to mention is one that just about every single PR professional suggests:
- Follow Up. Actually, I prefer to say it like the NYC PR Girls do, “For the love of Jimmy Choo, follow up!” Really though, you’d be surprised to see the impact a handwritten thank you note can make– it’s huge! I think the appreciation for them is due to the fact that nowadays no one really takes the time to actually write one. Now, you might be wondering, “What if they have my resume, but I still have no interview?” That’s okay! After submitting your resume, send an email thanking the interviewer for their time. If you don’t hear back after several days, send another email or make a phone call to ask if the position has been filled yet. And don’t be afraid to do so! By expressing your true interest in the position, the interviewer will notice that. Everyone loves to feel appreciated. Don’t you?