“Network, network,network!” every single PR professor, practitioner and student passionately preached into my ear. In my freshman year of college, I heard this verb so much I nearly grew sick of it. Sure, I thought I already knew what networking meant: to ambitiously introduce oneself to new people, to forge new, beneficial connections. But it wasn’t until I began realizing that every single person who surrounds me has something valuable to share — that I really saw profound worth in networking. Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson discovered this first and said, “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.”
Not only has networking introduced me to new people and therefore new information that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise but it’s totally revolutionized and enhanced the way I view people. No longer do I pre-judge — rather, I curiously wonder what kind of new, interesting story a person has to tell. Everyone has a unique story; it should be our responsibility as communicators to learn these stories and learn about the incredible individuals with whom we share this vast space.
Writing for The Ball State Daily Newsas a feature reporter has granted me access to people who have practically shaped me because I learn from their stories and better my life because of them. One Ball State student told me about his trip to Haiti through Filter of Hope, in which he helped 100 families gain access to clean drinking water for 10 years. After this moving interview, I knew I wanted to do work for a nonprofit that serves people in dire need — and so this past summer, I interned for the Humanitarian Service Project in Illinois. Another impressive individual I had the privilege of learning from and writing about was astronaut Wendy Lawrence. To ensure a spot on the NASA team, Lawrence followed the simple yet critical advice of her father: “Look at what other astronauts did to achieve their status, and then do exactly that.” This taught me to learn from those who have exactly what I want. In applying this advice, I grew a new friendship that will forever have me indulging in pure gratitude.
Thanks to her LinkedIn bio, I saw that student Penelope Bremner earned the coveted internship I had so hopefully applied for but did not receive. Bremner’s profile was extremely impressive so there was no wondering why she was selected. In awe of her excellence, I knew I’d be foolish not to pounce on this potential connection. A simple message requesting a bit of her time led to a half-hour phone call, paragraphs more of valuable advice and a permanent mentor. She even offered to edit my resume and cover letter — how awesome that she went above and beyond helping out an online stranger. I now have a three-hour commitment written on my calendar to implement/work on everything she advised I do. I reflected on Lawrence’s father’s valuable advice to learn from people who already have what I want, because they seem to offer the most obvious blueprint of how to achieve what’s necessary for the end goal. I felt so lucky to learn from Bremner.
I grow from every story and every piece of advice that people share with me — all thanks to just reaching out — all thanks to networking. So, thank you to all the PR professors, practitioners and students who didn’t let me go a whole day without hearing that word four times. I’ve been able to be inspired, be motivated and be a better listener — and I seriously could not thank enough the people who’ve invested time into sharing with me.
My goal and hopefully yours now, too: Learn someone’s story every couple of days. Take notes, apply their advice, reflect on results and voice your gratitude. Once you’ve become successful and fulfilled thanks to growing from others’ stories, it’ll be time to share your own.
Melissa Kraman is an honors, sophomore public relations student minoring in marketing and entrepreneurial management at Ball State University. Enriching her passion for effective communications, she is a writer for Ball State’s Marketing and Communications department, serves as a Ball State Journalism Ambassador and is an active member within her university’s PRSSA chapter. Each day she strides closer to her goals, all thanks to the exquisite, enlightening people who surround her.