As communications professionals, we’re sure you’ve heard it before — your network is everything. So, what is a network? By definition, a network is “an interconnected or interrelated chain, group or system.”
You likely already know that your network is comprised of the professionals you meet throughout your life at conferences, trainings, happy hours, etc. What you might not have considered is that your network is also made up of the people you interact with every day. It’s your parents, grandparents, friends, peers, favorite barista — the list goes on.
You may be wondering why we include peers and friends in the definition of a network. As students, your peers can often be the most helpful to you when you’re looking for your next big internship or landing your first job after graduation. Their network can be an extension of your own. Your peers will one day become the top players in this industry, so you should be nurturing those relationships early on.
In fact, we both found our jobs through our network of peers.
Once you understand the importance of a network, it can be intimidating to grow your own. How do you get a network? Where do you find people to join? To start growing your network, you have to begin by meeting others who are interested, or work, in the communications space. Try these tips to start:
- Attend an industry event. PRSSA is a great place to start this mission. PRSSA hosts regional, local, national and online events that allow you to create your own network. Industry events usually have professional speakers who could potentially join your network.
- Follow up. When you do make a professional contact, you want to make sure you follow up with them. Send an email after you meet or tag them in a tweet so they remember meeting you.
- Maintain communication. After you create that relationship, you have to be sure to maintain it; email or call them occasionally to keep in touch and increase your knowledge of the industry.
Take every opportunity to join public relations student groups, Twitter chats, discussions or luncheons. You’ll find other students who have similar passions as you and even make friends along the way. Your peers are great for your network because they are generally in the same boat as you, and you can learn as much from their journeys are your own.
Once you’ve grown your network, how can you utilize them in a job search? Make sure your network is full of mutually beneficial relationships. When professionals in your network see you as someone who will advocate for them, they are far more likely to advocate for you. Think of your network as a group of professional friends who want to see you succeed and will help you get there.
Networking is the key to successful communications relationships, but remember it is not as intimidating as it sounds. As public relations people, we are constantly working to build strong, deep relationships and networking is just one of those steps. Just think of it as making strong connections with those who love communications as much as you do — and we know you’ll do just fine. You never know who you’ll meet!
Lindsey Young is a recent graduate of The University of Alabama, with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. During her time in at Alabama, she served as PRSSA Chapter president and worked for her Student-run Firm, Capstone Agency, as a media relations specialist for The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. Lindsey is currently working in Washington, D.C. as a junior communications specialist. She works on national public health and education campaigns for federal agencies at Synergy Enterprises, Inc. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Josh Ferrari is a University of Florida alum, having graduated with his bachelor’s degree in public relations in April 2016. While at UF, he was the PRSSA Chapter president and a graphic designer for the Institute for Public Relations. Currently, he works in Washington, D.C. as a junior communications specialist on national public health campaigns for federal agencies at Synergy Enterprises, Inc. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.