In Entrepreneur magazine, Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin, said: “The first step on the road to success is building a network.” You probably already know how important networking is in landing the job you want. But this can seem like a huge job. Where do you start?
Be a Joiner
Every college and university has its own internal networking groups you can join, but don’t stop with those. Have you joined your alumni association? Do you have a special interest that could lead to a person who could open PR doors for you? Try a few meet-up groups focused on that interest.
Volunteer – Who Knows Where it Might Lead?
Of course you’re working your social media contacts, but look beyond the obvious places such as LinkedIn or Monster because you never know who might have the connections to help you.
You can also find a quick way into most organizations by offering to work for free. For example, maybe you could get your first PR job offer by volunteering with a nonprofit that needs PR help. If you offer to help for free, don’t expect it to lead to anything other than a good entry on your resume. But the spinoff benefits might be good – for example, maybe someone on the board of directors at that non-profit owns a PR firm and, impressed by your work and dedication, offers you a job. You just never know.
Make an Action Plan
List everyone you know who might be willing to help you. Then make an action plan and work out who you’ll contact first and how you’ll approach them. Who in your network are the friendly extroverts who seem to know everyone? Put them at the top of the list because, even if they can’t help today, odds are they’ll come across someone who can.
Whether it’s an online database, new address book or filing system for your business cards, find a way to organize your contacts. After a few weeks, it might be hard to remember the details of a contact. And those details can be very important. If a contact told you they’re leaving their small firm to work for a larger one, you’ll want to remember that. Write down birthdays, interests and connections you had in the conversation. You discovered you both love kayaking? Make a note, and when you come across a great kayaking resource, you can send it to them. That’s networking gold!
Contact with Tact
Calling someone out of the blue and asking for a job is probably not the most effective approach, unless you’ve worked with this person before or they work for a recruiting firm. Even then, it’s better to say, “Can you let me know about any job leads that come your way?” This way, if they can help, they will, and they’re not put in the awkward position of having to say, “Sorry, I don’t have anything.”
Also, don’t ask for a favor from someone you haven’t seen in ages. Get in touch first to reconnect and have a few genuine exchanges back and forth before you even mention your interest in networking. You want to connect as a person, not someone who’s only interested in using person A to get to job B. And don’t forget to follow-up with a thank you note. People remember who did and didn’t send a thank you!
Keep it Going
You’ve contacted everyone you know, worked your social media and given out business cards at every PR networking group you could find. But don’t stop there. If you’re still looking for a job, keep adding to your network and continuing to touch base with the people already in it.
Once you have a job, force yourself to keep up your contact-gathering because things can change quickly. The only thing worse than getting laid off is getting laid off and realizing you didn’t stay in touch with your best contacts from your old job. Think of networking like a car that gets you where you want to go. You have to maintain your car and keep fuel in it to keep it going. Do the same with your network.
And reciprocate the favors. Reach out to people you might be able to help, so you become known as a ‘giver.’ Every week, find some time to make the calls, send the emails, or attend the get-togethers. It’s the best way to get where you want to go in your PR career.
Reyna Ramli is a writer for CareerBliss.com, an online community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. When Reyna is not writing, she enjoys cooking, working out, and reading fashion blogs and magazines.