By: Genevieve Krejci
Over the course of six days, PRSSA’s ICON conference allowed students and professionals to mingle at a variety of different events, including breakfast, a career development exhibition and more. At these events, I had the chance to meet and network with professionals and peers alike and learn some essential tips for networking.
1. Don’t Be Scared
The first piece of advice I have is you cannot be afraid to network. You must have the courage to go up to anyone and promote yourself. Professionals are there to help you break into the field; if you don’t go up to them, you miss out on unknown opportunities. A public relations career requires bravery; our job is communicating, and the first step is connecting with professionals and peers. Connections get you jobs, and the fear of making them will hold you back.
2. Make Talking Points Beforehand
The first step may be having the courage to speak to professionals and peers, but the second is having talking points about yourself. You have one chance to make a first impression on these people; having talking points or an elevator pitch is the best way to prepare for a networking opportunity. These can include achievements, fun facts, interests and career goals. Make sure you have something specific to say when you speak to someone because you never know if they could change your life.
3. People Love to Talk About Themselves
Once you have your talking points, think of some questions you could ask professionals and peers. Don’t forget to ask about their background. This can be an excellent opportunity to show that you researched them or their company. Ask how they got their position or what inspired them to write a book. Showing interest in their career allows you to build a meaningful, less transactional connection. These conversations are also more likely to stand the test of time. People love to talk about themselves, so use that to your advantage.
4. Have a Goal With Each Connection
I cannot lie; I fell prey to this. I was so excited to speak to a connection that I hurried over and introduced myself without determining my next point of conversation, resulting in an awkward silence. You should have a reason to go up to them, whether that is asking them about their career, sharing something you loved from their presentation, or asking about internships at their company. Make sure you have something to talk about so awkward silences do not impact your first impression. Our job is communicating; make sure you showcase you can do this comfortably.
5. Your Peers Have Just as Many Connections
ICON brought together professionals and students from all over the world. While networking with professionals, don’t forget that peers your age have connections too. We met PRSSA members from dozens of universities and colleges. Another great thing is making lasting connections with peers can result in friendships! Our PRSSA board connected with the board from DePaul and Ohio State, and now we are planning to visit their panels in the upcoming year. Connecting with peers could result in finding a job later in your professional career. If you choose to move to a new city or change fields, it can be helpful to have connections across the industry. The more connections you make, the more opportunities you will be presented with. You never know where a conversation can take you.
All in all, ICON was a fantastic opportunity to network and meet amazing people. Networking goes a long way in this field, and knowing how to do it well could result in some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, maybe even your dream job. You’ve got this!