By Nicole Bersani
Every public relations student has heard about networking, but it is not always just about grabbing that business card at PRSSA meetings. It is about getting the person’s contact information, e-mailing them sometime after you meet, possibly getting coffee, asking them for advice, keeping in contact and hopefully getting connected to others.
Think that it’s too much work?
Here is my story: Once upon a time, I was at a usual Monday night PRSSA meeting in 2008 and met Shannon Stucky, an Ohio University alumna and an assistant vice president for FD’s (formerly known as Financial Dynamics) Special Situations practice in New York City. I grabbed one of her business cards, talked with her for a few seconds after the meeting, and sent her a thank-you e-mail for answering my questions. We kept in touch and she connected me to Alexandra Barkulis, an associate for FD’s Corporate Communications practice in Chicago. After our chapter visited Chicago for a networking trip (ironically), I stayed an extra day (since I’m from the suburbs north of Chicago) and connected with Alexandra. As I learned more about FD and developed a strong interest in its firm, I decided to apply for a summer internship, and was later hired as an intern. I have assembled solid application materials—résumé, cover letter, portfolio, recommendations, writing/design samples—but I’d like to think that the network I have established and the supportive professionals I have met are ultimately what led to my receiving an offer for the corporate communications internship at FD in downtown Chicago.
Networking could not only help for future internships or jobs, but it can also help with everyday opportunities. For example, what if you need some guidance on a PR plan, campaign, press release, crisis or event for your ImPRessions account? Or what if you need some advice on how to deal with a difficult client or how to best reach your audiences? The contacts you have made can be valuable and inspirational support. Many of the accounts have professionals that students can reach out to, and if it’s not a direct client, then feel free to open questions to pros you know that are related to your account’s field (health care, non-profit, etc.).
Tips for easy networking:
- Keep all business cards (even ones from your student peers) in a business card holder in the order that you received them.
- Write on the back of the card when/where you met with a little added info about them (OU alum, etc.).
- If they do not have a business card to give you, still keep their information by writing it down on a note card and filing it in your holder.
- E-mail and/or tweet them questions/advice once in a while or ask if they want to meet for coffee.
- Keep them updated on what you are doing and learn as much as you can about them and their job.
- It is not a one-way street: be a valuable contact for others as well. If you hear something that would be useful to a professional, co-worker in ImPRessions or OU professor, let them know.