Many networking opportunities exist for students, such as conferences, conventions, mentor shadowing days and agency tours. It is important to shine at these events, as the connections you make could later help your professional career. Here are three tips to consider when attending your next networking event.
Do Your Research
Before going to your event, take a look at who is attending. Research their employers’ websites and social media pages. Look up agency clients, corporate social responsibility activities, mission statements, financial reports and media articles. If you know you are meeting with specific professionals, browse their LinkedIn and Twitter pages. This will help you get a better understanding of what to expect, and you’ll be well prepared for the event – and maybe a little less nervous! While you may not refer to much of your research during your actual conversations, professionals will be impressed to hear you are familiar with their company and its background.
In addition, pay attention to the event’s dress code. Business casual clothing may be appropriate when attending large events, while happy hours or other casual gatherings may allow for jeans and a nice shirt. Your choice of clothing is another aspect of making a great first impression, especially when meeting professionals.
Engage in conversation when meeting with professionals. Don’t hesitate to ask the pro questions about the public relations industry. If you need to, prepare a list of questions in advance that you can mentally refer to during the event. You can also spark conversation by asking the practitioner about how they pursued a career in public relations. This is another way to gain insightful information about the communications field and will help jumpstart your career after college. In addition to interacting with professionals, get to know other students at the event. Talking to students who are on the same career path as you can help you discover volunteer opportunities, internships and the latest trends in public relations.
Remember to Follow-Up
Follow up with the professionals you met via email within a couple of days. (Remember to ask for their business cards during the event!) If you feel like you made a strong connection with someone, keep in touch with them throughout the semester and beyond. Perhaps meet up for coffee or ask to shadow them one day at their office. He or she may end up being your next public relations mentor! Professionals can serve as great resources when it comes to applying for internships and jobs, so it is important to stay in touch with them as you complete your studies.
What is one thing you always remember to do before or at a networking event? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Nelli Tokleh spearheaded UNT PRSSA as the Chapter president in 2010-2011. She is currently pursuing her MBA and working as a public relations freelancer for consumer and nonprofit clients in Dallas, Texas.
Sheila Bishop has a bachelor’s degree in public relations/broadcast journalism from Tarleton State University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas. She currently serves as the outreach specialist for Tarleton University.
Both authors serve on the PRSA Dallas university relations committee. They are currently preparing for the Chapter’s annual Pro-Am Day, a unique shadowing opportunity for students to connect with Dallas-area public relations practitioners. The theme this year is “Professional Pathways” and will be held on March 15, 2013. For more information, please visit PRSADallas.org.