Students: Seek Out Opportunities to Network

PCC Panel, hazy

It is never too early or even too late to start networking. Just because you missed some events does not mean you should let other pass you by again. As students, we must be willing to put ourselves out there in the professional world to soak in the knowledge and experience provided by these opportunities. One way to engage in networking is through your University’s Public Relations Student Society of America Chapter.

An event for every season.

PRSSA offers learning opportunities by implementing many useful tools which benefit every individual studying public relations. To name a few:

  • Regional Conferences (February through April)
  • National Assembly (March)
  • National Conference (October)

PR students have the opportunity to take advantage of these life changing experiences. But what happens in the meantime while you are “off season?” Do you stop and idle until something new comes along? Living in such a fast paced environment where the level of competitors is high, we cannot afford to be laid back and cruise within our comfort zone. This means we have to start looking on our own.

The Quest.

A little over a year ago, I did a complete turnaround in the way I approach networking. Having the privilege to attend The Plank Center’s 4th Annual Milestone in Mentoring Gala in 2013, I understood the importance of becoming familiar with the “PR giants” of the profession. Being inspired by one of the friendliest group of people that night pushed me to advance even further to look for public relations events on my own. The process was as easy as it could be. Just a simple search (Public Relations Event in Chicago) revealed pages of current networking events, workshops, informational seminars, etc. within the city. The one I strongly took notice of was the Publicity Club of Chicago (PCC) Luncheon. Not knowing what it really is, after doing some research I came to find out that the PCC Luncheons are held once a month, every month, and feature panelists with outstanding credentials to benefit other professionals, educators, young professionals, and students within the field.

5 Tips on networking

  1. Dress professional
  2. Do not forget your business cards.
  3. Update and print copies of your resume
  4. Know your interests/focus
  5. Follow up!

After attending multiple PCC Luncheons within the last year, my most recent one was on December 3, 2014. Once again, I was blown away by the knowledge shared by each individual panelist; from real interview questions, to what skills should be emphasized, and tips to use in the workplace. But what I did notice, once again, was the lack of student attendees. Very few students attend this monthly event and miss out on the opportunity to network and advance their understanding of PR outside of the classroom. The best part, as a student, it won’t cost you a single dollar to attend the “Student Program.” All you have to do is register and show up at 12:20 p.m.

So many opportunities surround us here in the city, yet it seems like so many students avoid. Being in a room full of “PR giants” at a networking event can be intimidating. We worry about making the memorable first impression.  We think too much if something will actually benefit us and be worth-the-while if we end up going. But I have discovered that professionals, scholars, and veterans in the field of public relations are one of the most friendly and comfortable people to be around as a students with barely any experience in networking. Their interest for you is high and they listen more than they talk. They like to hear your story, what interests you, and your plans for the future.  Attending the monthly Publicity Club of Chicago Luncheons as often as I can has given me that “extra push” to feel more comfortable in the networking environment.

Networking is an essential tool to have and use, but so many students have a misunderstanding of how to use it. The best advice I have received and would like to pass it on is, “that many people oversee using it (networking) as an opportunity to learn, as opposed to an opportunity to get something from someone.” When going to a networking event, do not expect to land your next job or internship. Rather, make new connections, take in all the great advice given, and do not forget to follow up!

Konstatain Kostadin Petroski is from Cedar Lake, Indiana, majoring in communication with a focus in public relations at Indiana University-Northwest. He is graduating May 2015, pursuing the dream of agency life. Kostadin has received multiple awards and certificates such as, “Outstanding Service as a Senior in Communication” by the Communication Department of IUN.

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