Advice For The PR Grad – Networking
Yes, it’s all about who you know. Our pro’s had advice on how, when and where to network and build relationships with other professionals…
1. Get involved in organizations:
Allison Fogt, Account Manager for Kidd PR says to “Take advantage of networking opportunities with PR professionals in your area. Introduce yourself at PR organization luncheons. They will appreciate your initiative, and you may have an edge should a job opening become available.”
“Start attending networking events or join a business club while still in college! In most major cities across the country, there are plenty of groups for young people and recent grads who are looking to be involved in the business world, and many college campuses have business clubs/fraternities. You can use CampusCompare to research which schools have these valuable networking clubs. In today’s job-search world, everything is virtual. Employers oftentimes are overwhelmed with a plethora of resume submissions, so even the most qualified candidate’s resume might just be lost in an inbox. With the face-to-face interaction you’d receive by attending networking events, you have the opportunity to really shine and make an impression on potential employers. “ ~Brittany Burton
“Join your local Public Relations Society of America and get to know the members. Go to the meetings, talk with people, and offer to serve on a committee and do an outstanding job. This will help you prove your eagerness to work and abilities in the field, and you’ll make a positive impression on the very people who are most likely to find out about PR jobs in your community before they are announced to the general public. If you’re interested in working in PR for a nonprofit, you may want to do the same with your local Association of Fundraising Professionals as well.” ~ Mary White, author of 101 Successful PR Campaign Tips and co-founder of MTI Business Solutions.
“Networking — I would email PR and Marketing conference organizers and ask for a student discount when I first graduated college. Conferences like Marketing & Online Communities Conference, SummerMash NYC, Social Media Club and PRSA events are a great place to learn more and network with as many people as possible. I even had personal business cards printed for free using Vista Print. Other than that, I networked online. When I first graduated college a new web site Doostang.com was launched. It was an invite-only career networking site for top university graduates. This was a fantastic resource, as I was able to connect with top young professionals in my industry to bounce advice off of and network for jobs.” ~ Matt Clark. Lotus PR
2. Don’t knock the informational interview!
“Join organizations – Organizations like Toast Masters, Junior League, Chamber of Commerce, and faith based groups can give you opportunities to practice speaking, writing, and interpersonal skills. Don’t disdain the “informational interview.” – In tough economic times when many places are not hiring, a positive encounter may pay dividends down the road in better times.” ~ Joseph Starrs – Director, Institute on Political Journalism for The Fund for American Studies
“Call people with the objective of learning what they do and what it’s like. It removes all the pressure. You’re not asking them for a job. You’re just trying to understand what their job is like. If you do this well, you’ll get a mentor who may be a good referral source to other opportunities (shhh don’t tell people, but that’s how people REALLY get jobs.)” ~Antoine Dubeauclard – President, Media Genesis
“Learn to lunch! Lunch is a great way to casually build your professional network and get to know about your colleagues and the profession.” ~ JP Clark Regional Communications Manager, Grainger
Meeting people through professional networks is great, but more than a few of our PR pros pointed out that you should always be on the look-out for potential opportunities. In other words…
3. Talk to everybody!
“Also- talk to everyone and anyone you can. Airplanes, grocery stores, at the mall… schmooze everyone you can. You never know who’ll you meet. Jobs aren’t found through the classifieds- they’re found through networking. And make sure you keep those connections from the past- a mark of a good public relations professional is the ability to maintain relationships.” ~ Melissa Cibelli PR Specialist
Amy Kauffman, partner at BlueBird PR, advises you to “have an elevator speech ready, sell yourself like you would pitch any of your clients. Go to as many alumni, professional or communication organizations events/happy hours. There are a ton in every city, you just have to look them up! (I know you spend hours on Facebook, aren’t YOU worth that time; invest in your own personal stock!)”
“Create a home-made business card with your contact information, alma mater and degree. Take every opportunity to network, whether it be with the person you stood in line with at Starbucks or the friend-of-your-cousin’s-boyfriend you met at a party. Here’s a personal anecdote: After college I was waiting tables while I was searching for a full-time job, and began talking to one of our guests about my job hunt. After dinner I gave him my information, and after a series of emails we met for lunch and he passed along information for every contact he had in the PR/Marketing and business world. This type of personal connection is invaluable and we still exchange emails.” ~Brittany Burton, Campus Rep Coordinator, CampusCompare.
Mike Santoro, President of Walker Sands Communications says “Network, Network, Network. You should start and maintain connections with PR professionals early because you never know when a position will open up. It’s all about who you know, since great references will often provide a verbal boost to your resume that can give you the upper hand and land you the job. Plus, the PR profession is truly about networking and how you can connect with the media. Demonstrating those networking skills early is a great way to get started in the field. Keep updated with online social media opportunities, but realize that face-to-face interaction is also important. Join Twitter. This is a fantastic networking tool to meet professionals, get advice, get job/internship leads and find out about PR events to attend.”
4. Network Online
Many pros pointed out that while building relationships in person is crucial, a PR grad should also take advantage of the online networking resources available.
Heather Huhman, founder of entrylevel-pr.com encourages people to “sign up for Twitter, start following thought leaders in public relations (specifically, the area of public relations that interests you most, such as health care), and get engaged via the various PR hashtags: #PRadvice for asking pros questions, #EntryPR for entry-level jobs and #PRintern for internships. “
“Networking is crucial. Anyone you know can potentially know someone who is looking to hire. Use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to spread the word that you’re a talented, bright grad looking for a job. Don’t stalk anyone, but it’s good to be persistent. Plus, knowing your way around social media is a huge plus these days. And don’t think that because the firm doesn’t have an ad up on Craigslist that they aren’t looking to hire. Apply to all of the firms you want to work for, even if they aren’t advertising any openings.” ~ Termeh Mazhari
“Put your best “Facebook” forward. Social networking sites are great ways to stay in touch and share information with friends – but prospective employers are watching, too. Last fall’s Greek mixer may have been a blast, and you may really covet the “Beer Pong Champion” trophy you earned that night, but do you really want to share those memories with your future boss? Once you start looking for internships or full-time employment, your social networking pages need to undergo a thorough review. It’s fine to keep photos of your friends, hobbies and interests up, but keep everything in good taste. If you wouldn’t want it broadcast on TV or in the paper, take it down.” ~ Jason Menke, Communications Consultant
5. When you network, you are your client
The road ahead is largely determined by the bridges you’ve crossed. It’s trite, but the advice of “don’t burn any bridges” is still sound. Communicators are a tight knit group, and they seek each other counsel, advice and guidance. They also talk amongst themselves about their experiences working with other communicators. You are undeniably the most important client you’ll ever represent, so make every effort to build good relationships and keep them intact. Even if you end up working for a difficult boss, do what you can to leave on good terms. In my 15 years as a professional, I’ve been hired by the same manager twice, and my first boss out of college was instrumental in getting me my current gig – she’s now a co-worker who recommended me for my position.” ~ Jason Menke
Amy Armstrong, PR Partner with Armstrong Troyky, sent us a sample from a cover letter she actually received – it said “…After spending the last year of my professional life in public relations and event planning, I am convinced that PR- unlike, say brain surgery or local area network design- does not require special education, knowledge, or background for success…” Ouch. Amy’s take on the email?“In my entire 25+ year career in PR and marketing, this is the WORST job query I have ever received! I have hired hundreds of candidates out of college for entry level positions and have never seen anything like this! Quick tip….never insult people in the profession you are trying to get into!”
Which brings us to our last bit of advice for this section.
“Don’t burn any bridges. The PR world is smaller than you think and you never know when you will cross paths with members of the media, PR-related vendors and other agencies in another life.” ~ Dan Lobring
Coming Tomorrow: Interview Tips