Three Tips to Take the Jitters Out of Networking

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People who work in PR are known for being social butterflies who can drum up a lively conversation with just about anyone. But I’ll be the first to admit that, yes, I work in PR, and yes, I still get a little anxious right before I walk into a networking event. It can be intimidating to attend a luncheon or conference by yourself. There’s that first long minute filled with nervous energy while you look for a friendly face, and then everything melts away after you start your first conversation. And by the end, you’re glad you went. This quote from Kristin Newman’s memoir perfectly sums it up:

“I was a shy little girl and an only child, so on vacations I was usually playing alone, too afraid to go up to the happy groups of kids and introduce myself. Finally, on one vacation, my mom asked me which I’d rather have: a vacation with no friends, or one scary moment. So I gathered up all of my courage, and swam over to the kids, and there was one scary moment… and then I had friends for the first time on vacation. After that, one scary moment became something I was always willing to have in exchange for the possible payoff. I became a girl who knew how to take a deep breath, suck it up, and walk into any room by herself.”

One scary moment is almost always worth the trade-off. Here are three tips to get you through that one scary moment and become an expert networker.

1. Geek out together

The good thing about attending PRSA networking events is that you automatically have at least one thing in common with everyone else there: you work in PR (or aspire to work in PR). So bring up industry news that your regular social circle doesn’t get nearly as excited about, like Snapchat’s new glasses or the latest brand in crisis. In addition to industry news, it’s helpful to be up on the latest global and national happenings, always, but especially before a networking event. My go-to resource is theSkimm, which presents the news in a quick, easily digestible format. It’s ripe with conversation starters.

2. Go beyond small talk

Based on the idea that we’re not defined by our job titles (although I would argue a career in PR results in a serious work/life blend), I recently stumbled upon this great list of questions to ask people instead of “What do you do?” from Fast Company. Some of my favorite questions are:

  • Do you have any side hustles or passion projects?
  • Are you working on any exciting projects right now?
  • What’s your favorite emoji?
  • What was the highlight of your week/weekend?
  • What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned recently?

These are guaranteed to spark conversations that won’t fizzle out after the first minute.

3. Volunteer

If you’re new to an organization or city, the fastest way to make connections is to raise your hand and volunteer. For example, in PRSA you can join a number of committees, from new professionals to membership to communications. Choose a volunteer opportunity based on your strengths, whether that’s planning events, running the check-in table, or helping with promotion on social media. When you get involved, it allows you to build deeper relationships with members. Plus, you’ll know a few friendly faces when you go to the next event.

What are your tips for becoming an expert networker?

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Caitlin Rebecca Ryan is a PR writer for Eric Mower + Associates in Charlotte, NC, with a passion for live music, snail mail, and novels. Connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, and her blog.

Mastering the Art of Networking

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Networking- it’s a very intimidating word, especially for those who cringe at the idea of meeting complete strangers at a happy hour or local event.  Though it may come off as intimidating, the truth is that mastering the art of networking is a crucial step to land your first job.  The expression “it’s who you know” isn’t a myth and it certainly isn’t an expression that should be underestimated.  As someone who began their first post-graduation job in August, I can vouch for the importance of networking.  I can also provide some tips on how networking and landing your first job go hand-in-hand.

1. Utilize Your Resources

When looking for a first job, it can be tempting to start the search with platforms like LinkedIn, and while you may find some great positions listed, it’s not where I would begin. Very often when looking for your first job, it’s the people already in your circle that’ll help find the position you want, and ultimately, get you that position.  Whether it’s a professor, classmate, or family friend, chances are that you have a connection in the field that you are applying.  Once you establish that connection, don’t be afraid to reach out.  It may be an unspoken truth, but people in the communications field (and in general) like to talk about themselves and their professional experiences.  If you reach out with a positive attitude and genuine curiosity about the work they do, you’re golden.

2. Put Yourself Out There

Grounding yourself in the professional world requires you to get out there- literally. If you have colleagues or friends going to a networking happy hour or sporting event, make sure to get that plus-one invite.  Being open to meeting new people and stepping out of your comfort zone is the first step in securing that first job.  Even more important, it gives you the opportunity to be asked the first impression question: Who are you?  This is where your perfected 30 second elevator pitch comes in handy.  No matter who is asking, consider them a possible professional connection and sell yourself.  Make sure your presentation doesn’t sound staged or rehearsed, as people respond better to conversation that sounds genuine and honest.

While these two pieces of advice aren’t the only ones to consider when looking for your first job, they encompass the big ideas.  Everyone has been in your shoes before: colleagues, your boss- and everyone gets how difficult it is to assimilate into the real world.  The most important thing to remember is that the people around you are the ones that matter.  They are in your circle and consider themselves a connection for a reason- use that.  Taking advantage of networking opportunities will pay off in getting you that first job and it will pay off in the career path you choose.  Understanding how to talk to people, especially those who you want something from, is an invaluable skill.  So next time you are stepping into a networking event, try to let go on the intimidation and nervousness, and remember that it’s just one piece in the puzzle to help you get your first job.

evan-martinezEvan Martinez is a Communications Associate at American Iron and Steel Institute, a DC- based trade association representing the North American steel industry on Capitol Hill.

 

New Pros Week is Coming: Here’s How to Get Involved

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Celebrate PRSA New Professionals Week Aug. 1-7, 2016

Each year, PRSA New Professionals Week (Aug. 1-7, 2016) encourages new public relations professionals to share resources and advice with fellow new professionals across the country as we celebrate current members and encourage new members to join.

During this week, we encourage local Chapters to host events focused on providing networking and career development for professionals new to the industry.

Here are a few ways PRSA Chapters, new professionals and employers can get involved with New Professionals Week.

PRSA Chapters

Plan a New Pros Week event

While the PRSA New Professionals Section provides national programming, each PRSA Chapter can host an in-person event of its own. Here are a few ideas:

  • Ask a new professional in your Chapter to help plan an event
  • Arrange a mentor meet and greet in which young professionals are paired with seasoned mentors
  • Sponsor a networking mixer at a popular happy hour location
  • Host a “What I wish I knew as a Young Pro” panel featuring seasoned public relations professionals; invite students and recent graduates
  • Host a viewing of a PRSA New Professionals webinar over coffee, lunch or drinks

Once you set a date, be sure to register your event here.

Recruit new professionals to join your Chapter

New Professionals Week is the perfect opportunity to plan a membership campaign targeted at young professionals. Use this week to target your communications to new professionals who are not members.

New professionals

Participate in national programming

During PRSA New Professionals Week, we will provide national programming such as a Twitter chat, webinar and blog series. Stay tuned for more details, and continue to monitor our website for upcoming dates.

Organize an event

If your Chapter isn’t already planning a New Professionals Week event, volunteer to organize one. Once you set a date, be sure to register your event here.

Employers

Work with PRSA to host an event

If your company has a lot of new professionals, consider working with a PRSA member to organize an event to recognize your company’s newest hires. Here are a few ideas:

  • Promote your local PRSA Chapter’s New Professionals Week event to employees
  • Invite a PRSA member to host a training for new professionals at your agency or corporation
  • Write letters welcoming your new professionals to the company and thanking them for their work
  • Sponsor your new professionals’ PRSA membership and use the code AM16 to get a free New Pros Section membership

PRSA New Professionals Week 2016 will be here before we know it. How are you planning to celebrate?

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAl1AAAAJGM5NWQyMTZkLWFlZTAtNDU1OS05NDZiLTgxYTU2ZDNjZGJmNgHeather Harder is the PRSA New Professionals co-programming chair and an account executive at Capstrat in Raleigh, North Carolina. Contact her with questions about getting involved with New Pros Week.

Join New Pros at the PRSA International Conference!

Are you attending the PRSA International Conference this November? Lucky you! Not only will you have the chance to learn from some of the leading industry professionals, but you’ll have a chance to get one-on-one time with the PRSA New Pros group, too!

We’ll be hosting some exciting sessions at the conference this year, and we’d love for you to be part of them. If you’re unable to attend the conference in person, join the New Pros conversation online with the hashtag #NPPRSA.

Lucky enough to attend? Here’s how to join us for our exciting PRSA ICON New Pros event!

  • WHAT: PRSA New Professionals Meet and Greet – Join us for some networking, an update on the section and advice from senior PR professionals.
  • WHERE: Marriott Marquis, Room L 402
  • WHEN: Sunday, November 8, 11:00am – 12:00pm
  • QUESTIONS?: Reach out to Jessica.noonan@bm.com

Here are two other events that will be happening in the Atlanta area that week, too:

See you soon, New Pros!

From Superleader to Fly-on-the-Wall: Finding Time for Post-Grad ‘Extracurriculars’

Many ambitious new professionals graduate from college holding past leadership positions through on- and off-campus organizations. They’ve strived to be involved for personal and professional development. Gaining that experience is what sets them apart when finding a job.

But once you’re hired, how and what you stay involved with is a problem many new professionals struggle with. Staying involved and joining professional organizations doesn’t need to be difficult though, and can enhance your career for years to come.

Time is a huge issue holding people back from getting involved with the equivalent of “extracurriculars” after college.

Networking for New ProsNew pros regularly face long hours while trying to balance a social and healthy lifestyle (even more difficult if moving to a new city was involved). The truth is that membership will be what you make of it. Check out the organization you want to join – does it meet bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly — and in person or virtually?

In addition, evaluate how often you’ll want to volunteer: small commitments from a one-time blog post or working check-in at an event are a great way to ease your way into joining a new organization, without the potential stress of undertaking a large event.

Money is another issue that holds people back from staying involved. Many organizations require dues to cover the cost of membership and events, but there are ways to make it affordable. Depending on the organization, there are likely discounts offered for new professionals. In addition, many companies will pay for a portion of professional organization dues, knowing that it will contribute to shaping better employees.

Either way, if organization membership is important to excelling in your career (I’m looking at you, PR pros), it’s worth thinking about setting aside some money for dues as you save for other expenses.

The simple trait of timidness is also enough to slow new professionals from getting involved in groups out of school. From once knowing everyone through four-year involvement in organizations such as PRSSA, it can be daunting to even outgoing individuals to attend a new meeting or networking event.

A text from your roommate to meet for drinks or having just landed a new gig may seem like easy excuses to blow off a first meeting at the organization you looked into, but after going once you could meet a mentor, future colleague or new friend. Getting involved in a professional organization is also a great way to meet industry peers that you can bounce ideas off of and hangout with at conferences. Join a new organization with the goal of listening, before jumping to be the leader.

Wondering what organizations are best to join early in your career? I’d be amiss to not mention joining the New Professionals Section of PRSA. Staying connected to your alma mater by leading an alumni club is also a great way to network and joining a casual-level social sports league can combat work burnout. What do you do to grow your career, develop leadership skills and meet new professionals? I’d love to hear from you.

Hanna-PorterfieldHanna Porterfield is the Newsletter Co-Chair of PRSA’s New Professionals section and an Assistant Account Executive at Development Counsellors International. She graduated from Michigan State University in 2014 and is actively involved in the alumni club’s New York chapter. Connect with Hanna on LinkedIn and Twitter (@citygirlhanna).