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Networking tips for the college student

This past weekend I spoke at the Minnesota PRSA Leadership Retreat held at Padilla Speer Beardsley. About 30 go-getting public relations students gave up their Saturday (that’s impressive right there) to hear tips and tricks about getting starting in the industry.

I was asked to focus on networking and how it can lead to internship/job opportunities along with connections that will benefit their respective PRSSA chapters.

For those who asked, here a couple points I talked about:

Network to meet people — not to find a job. You’re not going to walk out of a networking event with a new gig. I mean, typically speaking. It takes time and effort to build genuine relationships with people that will be mutually beneficial down the line. Just like real life, right? Be prepared to make time for meeting with people even if they won’t be able to help you immediately.

Know what makes you different. There are a ton of graduating PR students with similar interests. That’s fine and all until you need to stand out. Figure out your differentiating qualities before you head out to a big networking event. It doesn’t have to be PR-related. It could be you’re working to be a yoga instructor. Or you’re a karaoke champion. Or you’re passionate about volunteering. Find something that makes you memorable.

Blog! Showcase what you know and prove you can structure a sentence. Your name will be Googled if you’re out and about meeting people. Having a blog is a great reference point for people to get a sense of who you are.

One business card is sometimes better than 20. Don’t worry about meeting every person at an event. If you walk away with one solid contact, I’d say you did your job.

Focus on how you can help others. We all have a network and we all know people who could potentially help out someone else. If you keep that in mind, you’ll be setting yourself up for some positive networking karma.

Follow up and engage. Email, tweet, write a note or send a LinkedIn request to those you connected with. The more personalized the better. And don’t disappear. If you enjoyed talking to someone make sure you set up another time to meet or interact on other platforms.

So those are just a few nuggets of advice.

A lot of the students there reached out and connected with me right away which tells me that (I think) they were paying attention. And for that, I’m flattered! Being around students who are so enthusiastic and excited to learn is really contagious. Thanks for having me, PRSA!

So what is your top networking piece of advice you’d give to college kids?

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  • Reply
    September 22, 2011 at 1:29 am

    Great post – I really agree with you on the part about networking to build meaningful relationships. People often overlook that.

    Also a big fan of “helping others first.” I’m a big believer that’s one of the best ways to create meaningful relationships and often setting yourself up for success down the road as well.

    Keep up the great work!


    • Reply
      September 22, 2011 at 3:59 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Nelson!

  • Reply
    January 3, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Great read. Students might also like my blog post on Networking Tips for College Students Who Hate to Network:

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