I write to you from the lobby of the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., site of the 2014 Public Relations Student Society of America National Conference. The wi-fi is slow, my hands are tired and my feet ache, but it’s been an amazing weekend of hearing from our industries professionals, and my own peers at schools across the nation. One of the biggest advantages of conference, or PRSSANC, is the endless networking opportunities.
Most anyone will tell you that networking is the key to success in our industry; getting a job is often all about who you know. Here at conference, I’ve experiences all forms of networking, and I’ve come to several conclusions about the best way to go about it.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of PR students here at conference, all vying for a chance to talk to sometimes just 1 single professional after a speech or session. The only way for them to remember you is uniqueness. Before you walk up to someone, do your best to think about something different from anyone else to talk to them about.
This weekend, more often than not I’ll hear students walk up to a PR pro, and say something along the lines of, “Well, after my 5th internship…” At first, I was just anxious, I’m only on my 3rd internship, how can I compete!? But, from watching the reactions and body language of the person they’re trying to network to, realized that they often weren’t very interested. Everyone has had internships, so a PR pro isn’t going to remember you that way. Instead, I introduced myself and then asked him (the guy I wanted a job from) a few questions about his own life, and the props he had on the table. Then we got to talking about Philadelphia, and I ended with recommending he take a trip to Jim’s Steaks, which he actually wrote down! I was thrilled, and felt sure he’d remember me after that.
Another key to networking is to follow-up, and do it quickly. I talked to a speaker after his session, got his card, and then emailed him less than 15 minutes later. By the next day we’d scheduled a time to sit down and talk! As with most emails in PR, come up with a catchy subject line, and keep the body short, sweet, and simple. Make sure to connect it with something unique you talked about in-person!
Another few things to think about is to make your business cards stand out, but not be too flashy. The real, over-arching key to networking is to establish your unique, personal brand, communicate that effectively in just a few minutes, and than follow-up quickly and decisively.
Have any comments or questions on best networking practices? Leave them below, I’d love to hear from you!
This post was authored by Faiz Mandviwalla, a junior at Temple University and Director of Finance of PRowl Public Relations. Follow him on twitter @faizmand.