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Building a strong professional network as a young professional

At this point in your professional career, you’ve most likely been constantly reminded of the importance of networking by professors, guest speakers and even your parents. On the surface, networking is simple - go to a mixer, shake a few hands, exchange business cards, and you’re on your way, right? Wrong. Growing and sustaining a network is a key component in the careers of all successful professionals, but like most things, it doesn’t come without a little bit of hard work. Networking is essential as a young Public Relations professional. 

If you’re having trouble building or leveraging your network, use the tips below to get you started.

Put Yourself Out There 

Talk to people. Yes, I know, it’s simple, but there are infinite opportunities that can be unlocked by reaching out to someone and initiating a conversation. Research established PR professionals in your area. A great place to start is through the PRSA Rochester chapter. If you find someone interesting, find their email and send them a note. What do you have to lose? Asking informed, industry-related questions can help you learn more about your field of choice, and it shows to the individual on the other end that you care about making connections and seeking advice. If you feel comfortable enough, try asking the individual for an informational interview via Zoom, WebEx, etc. - I’ll bet you they’ll oblige. Keep doing this with professionals in your area. Eventually, you’ll have an established network who will think of you when positions become available.

Use Social Media Strategically  

Social media like LinkedIn and Twitter are key in growing and maintaining networks. If you’re not using them, then you’re willingly passing up on opportunities to establish yourself in your professional network. LinkedIn is your chance to construct a tangible network of industry colleagues, potential employers, and thought leaders. But understand that the benefits of LinkedIn can’t be reaped fully if you’re inactive on the platform. It’s also important to realize that a LinkedIn network is no replacement for the network that you’ve worked hard to build through face-to-face interaction and dialogue, no matter how many connections you have on the platform.

Twitter may not land you a job, but it’s just as important in growing your network. Make sure to follow individuals that you’d frequently be contacting as a PR practitioner - this means reporters, journalists, news editors, etc., in addition to other PR professionals in the area. Growing your Twitter following gives you more credibility as a rising professional, and if you play your cards right, it can also become an effective media pitching tool.

Leveraging your Network

So you did it, you established a professional network - what now? Identify your goals and what it will take to achieve them. For many young professionals, the objective is to find a position in their desired field. To accomplish this, you’ll need to develop an approach to leverage your network to find an open position without exploiting it. Instead of asking your network connections if they know of any positions that you can apply to, try finding the positions yourself, then reach out to a few network connections and ask if they know anyone at the company that you’re applying to. With any luck, one or more members of your network will put in a good word for you, increasing your chances of earning an interview. Remember to be polite and professional when asking favors of your network members - acting entitled to the help of your network connection could be detrimental to the relationship you’ve worked hard to build.

Have Perspective 

Growing your network won’t always be easy. Sometimes you’ll reach out to individuals who won’t be able to make time for you or just simply aren’t interested in talking to you. That’s okay. Remember the people who took time to answer your questions, introduced you to their network, or recommended positions to apply for. Someday, sooner than you think, you’ll find the roles have been reversed and you’ll be the one getting emails from young professionals or college students. When this day comes, reflect on how you felt when you were in their position, and understand that an opportunity to better the career of another is still an opportunity nonetheless.

 

Alexander Dean is a Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator. at The Martin Group. In addition to volunteering on the PRSA Young Professionals and PRism Committees, Alex spends his free time working out, gaming, shooting action movies, or  watching his Toronto Raptors or Buffalo Bills.

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