I’m a senior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and will soon have a degree in International Public Relations. As a PR major, I learned quickly if I want to graduate with a job, I need to start meeting the “right people.”
Last semester, I began my networking process by searching for PR firms online and then e-mailing individuals whom I thought might help me get employed. After eight long months of phone calls, research and numerous conversations with what used to be strangers, I landed a job this March with an investment company in Chicago, as a member of the Client Relations team.
Throughout my networking endeavors, I learned what I think are some extremely valuable lessons:
- Re-think your purpose. I believe the main purpose of networking should not be solely-focused around finding a job but instead, about having a passion for your career and wanting to learn as much information as you can about your profession. Try to think of the bigger picture.
- Choose companies which interest you.
- Research first, talk later. After I found a business I was interested in, I conducted basic research about the company and the person I was planning on contacting. Doing this helped me to have more confidence regarding what I was talking about when I contacted the employee, as well as show I am serious about getting advice.
- Be persistent. By this I mean maintain contact with the individuals you reach out to for help and suggestions. Periodically send them a message. For example, I once asked a contact of mine for advice on a school assignment involving a PR case study. While I did not necessarily need his advice, it was an opportunity to build a professional relationship.
- Utilize your surroundings. Talk to your professors, family members, friends of the family – you never know who they might know or what connections they may have serving of value to your career.
- Try and ask yourself: “What makes me so special?” Although it is not true in every case, I have begun to assume everyone in the PR job market can write well, is familiar with AP style and has an extensive list of profound internships. For me, this is where networking comes into play. I truly believe getting employed has evolved into a game of who you know, or don’t know. Dr. Dean Kruckeberg, APR, a Professor from UNC Charlotte says, “It’s who you know who knows what you know. Knowing people won’t get you a desirable position in itself. Rather, they must know and respect what you know.”