Build More Than Digital Networks

The Internet wasn’t even a dream when I began my PR career on a Selectric II typewriter.  The pace of communications today is so fast and exciting that I sometimes worry that deeper professional networks are not being developed. 

I enjoy reading the blog of Ohio Northern junior Evan Roberts, who is very much into the digital space but also advocates the type of networking that launched my career many years ago.  I asked Evan to share his views in the following guest post.

  Evan Roberts

Networking. “Thank You” notes. Business cards. Talking points. Etc. Everyone knows that to build a solid foundation for a future career in public relations, your network is crucial.

That old adage that states, “It’s not what you know, but who (“whom” for us sticklers) you know” isn’t too far from truth. As a student beginning their job/internship search, you want to ensure that you have a solid network to work with you. The Ohio Northern University chapter of PRSSA has had several speakers address different aspects of networking. These aspects have mainly consisted of traditional networking, social media networking and finally the appropriate way to call on your network. The last part I feel is particularly important, primarily since I’m the kind of person who hates asking anyone for a favor. Food I don’t mind, but real favors seem to just put too much strain on a relationship for my personal comfort (my girlfriend would say “pride”). However with calling professionals or others in your network it is different and the reason is simple; they expect you to call. People who give you their card aren’t doing it for exercise, they are reaching out and it is your turn to make the next move.

So what do you do and more importantly, what should you say?? I’ve come up with four tips that might help. (The generic “they/them” refers to individuals in your network, as you deem appropriate.)

1)     In one sentence (fewer than 15 words) state your name and where you met them/how you know them. 

a.       Why? Because it gives a quick jog of the memory and takes the pressure off of them remembering you. What matters is that you remember them. If they remember you, fine. If not, they gave you their contact info so it’s their fault. You want to be sure you follow-up immediately after meeting someone though so they have record of it in case they forget. 

2)     Ask about them first.

a.       Beat them to it! And don’t belabor the point but be courteous. You aren’t in a hurry and if you or they are, find a better time to call.

3)     When they ask about you, give a little background then ask your favor.

a.       “I’m doing well, thanks for asking. I’m actually looking into internships for this summer and I thought I would let you know in case you hear of anything.”

4)     Follow-Up

a.       If their help leads to your internship/job, call them back and let them know. If you find something else and you are done looking, call them back and let them know. They key is you want to be sure they know you appreciate the time they spend thinking about you. Please understand, this is no quick-fire formula for networking success but it sure makes callbacks a lot easier. Oh and don’t be stupid, send a thank-you note.

NOTE- In the spirit of full disclosure, I have not gotten an internship yet but I almost did before I was even ready for it, and I think it is due to my networking.  Also, I don’t have a cell phone. So calling is a bit more of a conscious choice instead of a butt dial.

One thought on “Build More Than Digital Networks

  1. Great post Evan! I think that too often we forget — or in many cases are too scared, shy, etc — to make the first contact with a person with whom (for you sticklers) we have networked. I know that I have certainly let good contacts slip away because I never approached them again after the first meeting. It’s a lesson that I have had to learn the hard way, but for those of you who have yet to make this mistake, please take Evan’s advice!

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