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Networking: Who have you reached out to today?

January 3, 2009

Networking is something that I valued both as an undergrad, and now as a professional. When I was an undergrad, I thought it was common to reach out to alums, go to PRSA meetings and meet up with seasoned PR pros for meals, email frequently and such. When I entered the field, I was a little shocked with the type of emails I received from students, how they went about it, and the type of grammar/spelling/punctuation that was in the emails. In any field, making sure that things are spelled right is critical, but it is even more so in a field with such a strong emphasis in writing.

With so many social media tools free at the tip of your fingertips, you would be crazy to go into this field completely blind to how they can help not only you, but the people you connect with.

A few ideas for what you can do:

1. Contact your local PRSA chapter

If you visit http://www.prsa.org, they have a listing of all the US chapters, with contact information. Most PRSA chapters also have a liason to a student chapter, and this is probably the person you would want to start with. The Dallas PRSA liason for my school had a list of members that were willing to network, had shadowing opportunities and even had internship/job openings. Our liason would also forward any job postings to those that had connected with her and kept up a normal communication.

2. Keep the relationship up

Once you have cemented a contact (by getting their business card, meeting them at a function or a meeting, or through another contact) make sure that you keep the communication going. It might just be a weekly or monthly email to see how they are, asking to meet up with them for lunch, or what type of conferences they might be going to in the future. It might sound odd, but a handwritten thank you note just from meeting a person can go a long way, and is something that would impress me.

3. Take the initiative

We already have the job, although many of us are willing to mentor and help out in any way we can. If you want to be in this field, you need to be willing to take a leap and contact someone you have never spoken to. I was most impressed by Maggie Kierl, an undergrad at OSU who is relocating to Dallas once she graduates. She first reached out to me on Twitter and just asked my opinion on the field. Once she cemented that, she continued to talk to me, and emailed me frequently with questions. Because she took the initiative and showed how hard-working and dedicated she was, and after looking at an extremely impressive resume, I put her in contact with some key people in Dallas, and am continuing to do so and help her out. Her emails were professional and courteous, and she shows a great amount of maturity for someone who hasn’t even graduated yet.

4. Social Media

Join Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin. There is a great group of PR people on there, all who have great advice, blogs and love to talk about everything under the sun. If you’re like me and are in an association setting, I can still learn a lot from those in the agency world. They might have a viewpoint I never thought of before. It’s cliche, but you never know until you try. You have to be able to use these tools in the field, and it can serve as great practice before you graduate.

Patrick Evans, who works for STA Travel in Dallas, is organizing a great mentor program. For more details, check out http://www.flacker.net, or send an email to patrickevans@gmx.com.

So, who have you reached out to today?

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