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.

 

PRSA New Pros 2016 ICON Recap

Indianapolis skyline.

The Public Relations Society of America’s annual International Conference was held Oct. 23-25, 2016 in Indianapolis, Ind. We’re thrilled that a number of New Professionals section members were able to attend, and if you weren’t, read on for our recap.

New Pros Breakfast

The conference officially kicked off Sunday, with New Pros gathering for a networking breakfast.

Thanks to all who joined our New Pros session at PRSA International Conference – it was great to meet some fellow new pros and hear from seasoned professionals from the College of Fellows. We covered tips including first jobs and how to get involved in PRSA. If you’re interested in getting more involved and volunteering for the New Pros section, reach out to get involved! – Jessica Noonan, Chair, PRSA New Pros

Planning to join PRSA in the next couple months? Use the code AM16 to get a free New Pros Section membership when you apply to become a PRSA Associate Member.

“Where Are They Now?” – New Pros Panel at #PRSSANC

The New Pros section also hosted a panel for students at the PRSSA National Conference. Top tips included:

My advice to my 21-year-old self would be to relax. Don’t worry so much about graduation and focus on making the most of your last classes, internships and time as a student. – Nick Lucido, Immediate Past Chair, PRSA New Pros

You can rely on your network for support and guidance for the job search. But if you’ve gone dark on a person for a nine months and reappear asking for help it may not be as helpful as if you kept the relationship strong over time, so stay in touch with your connections. – Brian Price, Chair-Elect, PRSA New Pros

I was once told, “The only person holding you back is yourself.” Don’t be a roadblock to your own success. Believe you can achieve everything you dream of, be confident, and don’t let fear keep you from trying. – Heather Harder, Programming Chair, PRSA New Pros

Management Session Recap

On the final day of conference, the section led a session for New Pros (and their supervisors) on how to manage your first intern/new hire, client, project, and more. Top takeaways include:

To effectively manage up or be managed from below you must clarify and manage expectations and respect the boundaries and communication style preferences of the people that you work with on a daily basis. – Ruthann Campbell, Programming Chair, PRSA New Pros

When it comes to first-time managers, you have to be flexible. Remember that you are combining someone with little experience in management, with someone who has little experience in being managed. To effectively support your new hires, remember the 5’s: set expectations, structure, share (time, knowledge and networks), support and self-growth (because new pro managers learn too!). – Andrea Gils, PRSSA Liaison, PRSA New Pros

New Pros should begin managing their first client account or project once they have a successful track record of work, can handle an increased workload and have set expectations. It’s good exposure for them, especially with upper management and for mentorship opportunities. – Hanna Porterfield, Blog Chair, PRSA New Pros

Want to learn more on this topic? Join our next #NPPRSA Twitter chat on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 9:00 p.m. EDT.

ICON Testimonials

Wondering if it’s worth going to PRSA ICON as a New Pro? Looking to convince your employer to help you attend next year? Simply want to learn more? We’d love to see you!

This was my first time experience with a PRSA conference. Attending would not have been possible without my involvement with PRSA New Pros as it was through volunteering for the national committee that I was presented with the opportunity to speak. It was invigorating to be able to meet new people and hear about the similar struggles and challenges being faced by professionals in all stages of their career and industries. I learned a lot about new tools and strategies to help me be more effective in my role at a non-profit. If you have the opportunity to get involved and participate at any level of PRSA, I highly recommend that you do so and in the words of a College of Fellow representative, don’t’ just join, join in! – Ruthann

#PRSAICON has been THE highlight of my year. I can’t believe it was my first conference and I was able to present too – all thanks to PRSA New Pros! My favorite part of this year’s conference was being able to talk to a new pro after our session. She was so engaged not just during our presentation but afterward as well. She was facing challenges that we’ve all have faced as new pros and it was very rewarding to be able to listen to her and help her tackle her challenges. I think there’s a perception that PRSA New Pros is for those who just graduated from college or PRSSA – and it is – but it’s also for those who are seasoned pros and may be new to public relations. Our session showed me that there are a variety of New Pros, who are all equally interested in our section and what it has to offer. – Andrea

Check out more recaps from general sessions on PRSA’s website. Contact any of our section committee members to learn more and see you at PRSA ICON in Boston, Oct. 8-10, 2017.

New Pros Week Q&A with Pat Ford of Burson-Marsteller

We LovePRSA New Pros (1)

Editor’s note: as part of PRSA New Professionals week, The Edge sat down with Pat Ford, Vice Chair, Burson-Marsteller for inspiration and advice.

How did you get started in PR? 

I got my start with a small public affairs firm in Washington, DC, for which I had already been doing freelance writing assignments as a side job when I was still a newspaper reporter.  I didn’t know much about PR then – and in those days (early 1980) – I didn’t ever see the kinds of amazing resources we have today for students and young professionals, such as PRSSA and the PRSA New Professionals program.  Once I joined the profession, I loved it and my enthusiasm has only grown stronger over the past 36 years!

What was your biggest challenge when you were a new professional?

The first priority was to learn all I could about how to be an effective communications professional.  Because I worked in a small firm and simply didn’t know about PRSA or other organizations from which I could have received training and met with role models/mentors, I really had to drive that process myself.  

I immersed myself in anything I could read about PR, and gained a lot from several books on PR.  One that sticks in my mind even today is a work by Edward Bernays, one of the most important pioneers in the PR profession, called Crystallizing Public Opinion.  It was written in 1923 but still resonated in the 1980s and is still worth a read today.  The other key priority was to find and enlist the help of great mentors.  I’m so grateful as I think back now about a number of individuals who invested time in my professional development and generously shared the benefits for their vast experience and insight on PR, on public policy, which was the focus of my early days in this business, and of journalism, so I could learn far beyond the limited experience I had.  

I’ll never forget those mentors and I feel a sincere responsibility to honor their selfless dedication to me and other young professionals.  That’s why I am committed to make that same kind of investment in emerging talent today – and every day of my professional life.  

What makes a new professional stand out and advance in the PR industry/to senior leaders?

Your professional persona is, in essence, your brand.  So how do we grow brand strength?  The most important factors in growing any brand are differentiation and relevance: if someone has made it through our screening process, we expect they will have had good grades in school and be smart; we assume a certain standard of writing ability; we expect they will strive to complete a task when they get an assignment; we expect they are or should be voracious consumers of news and media content from the wide range of channels available to all of us today.  Those are table stakes – everyone has to be able to demonstrate those core skills.  

What differentiates you as a young professional are the ways in which you go beyond the expected to the exceptional.  You do this by learning all you can about how business works and how your company’s (and client companies’) business works.  You do it by being proactive and looking for ways to do even the most routine task in an exceptional way, including through flawless execution.  You do it by continually enhancing and improving your writing ability and adapting it to each specific business situation.  And you do it by asking smart questions that show a keen insightful thought process.  And you do it by demonstrating passion for the mission – don’t just say you are passionate or dedicated; show it!

How can new professionals find a mentor?

If you ask them, most will come!  

To paraphrase a lyric from one of the best songs in the musical Hamilton: “Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive (in PR) right now!”

  • Look around in your own office – not just your bosses, but colleagues at every level.
  • Look around in other professional settings like the PRSA, or the Plank Center for Leadership, or The LAGRANT Foundation.
  • Look around and seek out people who seem exceptional at some aspects of the business (or, if you’re lucky, all aspects of the business).  I can’t think of one who ever declined to be helpful.  Some are better than others, but all or most really want to help.  These are priceless opportunities for young professionals, but you need to make them happen.

As a whole, what areas do young professionals come in with the least amount of experience or understanding and how can they make up that ground?

Business acumen and exceptional writing ability.  I can’t emphasize these points enough. I wish I could connect with every future PR professional while they are still in their early college years and convince them to build more business and economics courses into their course loads.  They should also be reading the top business books/publications/sites to build a strong working knowledge of business trends.  It will give you an immense advantage.

Even in our new social media world that is heavily driven by video and 140-character messages, you gain a huge, differentiated advantage if you are an exceptionally talented writer.  Like any special skill, that requires a passion for excellence, a rigorous devotion to honing your skills, and practice, practice, practice.  

What is your top piece of advice for new professionals?

You have NOT reached your destination: this is the beginning of a journey that will have its biggest opportunities and benefits down the road.  These early years of your career are incredibly important for establishing a strong foundation for that journey, so think of them that way: soak up as much knowledge and experience; keep asking the right questions; look for ways to differentiate your personal brand; constantly broaden your horizons with the profession and in business generally.

FordPatrick Ford is Burson-Marsteller’s vice chairman and chief client officer. Over 27 years at B-M, he has held numerous positions including North American CEO and Asia-Pacific Chairman. Pat is a trustee of three leading PR organizations: the Institute for Public Relations; The LAGRANT Foundation; and the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. He was recognized in 2014 with the Plank Center’s prestigious Milestones in Mentoring Legacy Award. Follow Pat on Twitter @fordpat.

We <3 Being New Pros

We LovePRSA New Pros

New Pro (n)  /n(y)o͞o – prō/

  1. A public relations practitioner with five years of professional experience or less, possibly a student, aspiring PR pro or one who has recently made a career transition to public relations;
  2. A member of PRSA’s New Professionals Section;
  3. A cause for celebration!

Being new pro is an adventure in itself; full of new experiences, people and opportunities. Being a part of PRSA’s New Professionals Section amplifies all of those experiences by giving members a community in which to share their experiences, connect with other like-members and learn from each other. To kick off New Pros Week, we’re sharing some of our favorite things about being a new pro.

“Being a part of the PRSA New Professionals section has provided a network of like-minded professionals right out of college that not only allow me to tap into when I am seeking advice and best practices, but also allows me to share efforts from my local community that might save other new pros from having to recreate the wheel. In addition, this group has also provided friends that I would have otherwise never had the opportunity of meeting. The best of both worlds!” – Greg Rokisky

“The New Professionals Section has given me a sense of belonging within the PRSA organization. My favorite benefit is the opportunity I have to build relationships and to work with other professionals from diverse backgrounds, many of whom I can call friends.” – Henry Cervera Nique

“I love being part of PRSA New Pros Section for the networking and mentorship opportunities I receive. Two years into the working world, I’m still learning tons more about my specific work each day. I rely on several experienced mentors from my PRSA network who help me apply past experiences to new projects, set goals and understand the larger landscape around communications and marketing.”  – Brian Price

“After you get past the initial excitement of not having homework, I think the best part about being a new pro is going through the journey of your young 20’s. While it can be challenging, being fully independent for the first time is also very exciting. And the post-college social life is great. Happy hour to catch up with fellow new pros after a long day of hard work is the best!” – Heather Harder

“Two things to love about being a new pro: Connecting with fellow professionals across the country to learn about how to strengthen my career and taking advantage of all sorts of resources to help achieve my professional goals.” – Simon Oh

“I love being a member of PRSA New Professionals! For me, the best benefit is the spirit of mentorship within the section. We not only have the opportunity to connect with accomplished, established mentors, but we benefit from the collaborative leadership of our fellow members. Our members bring fresh perspectives to the practice of PR and communications.  We ask questions, we share our ideas, and we combine forces to advance our individual careers and the shape of PR as it evolves as a profession.” – Alyssa Stafford

“Being a part of the New Pros section has helped to make me feel like I belong within the larger PRSA organization and given me the confidence to take on a larger role in my job, in my chapter and in the section itself. Being new at something or somewhere is uncertain enough and being a part of the New Pros section helps to ease the transition from graduating, moving and changing jobs by knowing that there are other people experiencing the same things.” – Robyn Rudish-Laning

“My favorite thing about being a PRSA new pro is having a larger society full of senior, mid-level and junior professionals who are all open to connecting and giving you advice as a new professional. As I’ve progressed in my career it’s also been really rewarding to stay connected with PRSSA through the society!” – Jessica Noonan

“Getting involved in PRSA’s New Professionals section has allowed me to connect with PR pros in other industries and across the country. My favorite part about being a member is bouncing ideas off other PR pros at the same level I am (otherwise difficult if your workplace or city is small), mentorship from seasoned pros who value my involvement with PRSA, and a community that shares my passion for public relations.” – Hanna Porterfield

“I love being a new professional because I feel I have more time to truly figure out what I want to do before I settle in more. I have a lot of new opportunities with new teams and groups, and have been able to branch out more. Being a part of PRSA New Pros has allowed me to continue and strengthen the friendships and connections I made while in PRSSA.” – Lauren Gray

“When you’re just starting out in your first job, your team doesn’t know you. They don’t know your work ethic, your leadership style, etc. So naturally, they aren’t going to give you a whole lot of leadership roles until they know they can trust you. This is true no matter if you’re an intern or an entry-level employee. But for a lot of people who were active leaders in college, (shout out to PRSSA!) this can be disappointing, maybe even frustrating. You’re so ready to make your mark and show them what you’ve got! Being a member of New Pros has provided me with opportunities to lead outside of my office. I’ve been able to further my leadership development through the section so that now, when I have the trust of my co-workers, I can be a better leader in the office and take on those leadership roles I aspire to.” – Jenna Mosley

“PRSA New Pros provides a strong support system when challenges arise. I’m grateful to be a member of this group because I know I can rely on experienced professionals for guidance in tough situations.” – Seth Kingdon

“My favorite part of being a new pro is the ability to experiment, to take risks, to explore, to discover new things. As new pros—as young people—we have that ability to change what we’re doing very rapidly without much consequence. To take a new career path, to try a different industry, to try corporate and then agency, followed by you name it.” – Ben Butler

How My Mentors Helped Me Decide to Make a Career Change

Editor’s Note: This post is part of our ongoing #MemberMonday series. Each week, we will share content focused on our New Pros members and how PRSA benefits them. Follow us on Twitter at @PRSANewPros and share your stories using #MemberMonday.

Deciding whether or not to leave your first job isn’t easy. There are a lot of questions to consider. Is it the company you don’t like or is it the industry? Is it the agency world or your particular agency? Have you done all you can to grow and love your job? Do you want to relocate and, if so, can you afford it?

Deciding whether or not to

Fortunately, mentors and other resources can help. As I debated whether to leave the agency world, here are a few lessons I learned from my mentors.

Build a network before you need one

When I started considering a career change, I decided to consult my mentors. Fortunately, I’d been building up a network for the past couple years, so it was easy to think of people to reach out to.

Here are the three types of mentors I consulted:

  1. Seasoned professionals. These are the well-connected, executive-level people who can relate best to the hiring managers who will be looking at your resume.
  2. Young professionals. Mentors who were where you are just a few years ago can relate to what you’re going through and offer timely advice.
  3. Mentees. I’ve found my mentees are so wise that they end up mentoring me in the process.

Don’t have mentors yet? PRSA Mentor Match is a great tool PRSA members can use to connect with seasoned professionals. I developed a corporate mentor who was very helpful in my decision.

Stop worrying about appearing like a job hopper

I, like most Millennials, was worried my résumé would look bad if I left my first job before the two-year mark. But then a mentor told me that’s a myth. Sure, some PR people may think you look like a job hopper, but it all comes down to the story you tell.

As long as you have a good story for why you jumped and if you are truly concerned with finding the right long-term fit, it shouldn’t matter if you leave your first job earlier than expected.

The key is to make sure you are making this change for the right reasons and that you’ve done all you can to be happy in your first job. Before leaving, outline the path you’d like your career to take. Will your current job help you get there? Have you done everything you can to carve the path you want? Have real conversations about your goals with your supervisor before deciding to leave.

Make a decision you can live with

Two people recently told me, “Your career is too short to be unhappy with your job. Why stay if you aren’t happy?” It seems so simple, but it can be hard to come to terms with. Just remember, there’s a difference between having a bad week and having a bad job.

Everyone will have opinions about your career path. But no matter what they tell you, you’re the only one who will be with your employer for 40-plus hours a week. You’re the one whose career is on the line.

Sure, some people will still tell you that you have to stick it out for a year or two. But in the end, it’s your decision. Make the one that feels right.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAl1AAAAJGM5NWQyMTZkLWFlZTAtNDU1OS05NDZiLTgxYTU2ZDNjZGJmNgHeather Harder is the programming co-chair for PRSA New Professionals and a former national president of PRSSA. Follow her on Twitter at @HeathHarder.