A beginner’s guide to networking: How should recent PR graduates network.

In the world of PR, networking is everything. In fact, it’s the key skill on which the discipline hinges. Can you build relationships with journalists and use them to pitch articles for your client? This key skill drives an important aspect- Media relations.

Using this skill for developing a professional circle is just as important. Your net worth is just as good as a network, that is to say, it doesn’t matter if you know something, what matters more is who knows what you know.  Building a professional network involves being polite, being inquisitive but not too intrusive and knowing how and when to stay in touch. 

So how do you build one? Where to do you even start?

Here is how to Start:

  • Build a presence on social media

Build a LinkedIn profile, use LinkedIn to go to your college’s LinkedIn profile and look up alums who share interests similar to yours. Also look them up on Twitter. Some people prefer having a stronger Twitter presence over LinkedIn, follow them on both. Follow them on both for a while before you send out a LinkedIn request. The idea is to get to know what their interests are professionally and engage with that so that when you connect, it may act as an icebreaker.

  • Sending out a connection request

This aspect is of critical importance. Drafting the correct connection request message could be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful networker. When you send out a connection request, LinkedIn always prompts you to add a message, use that. Always figure out a way to be appreciative of the professional achievements of the person in the message. If you are reaching out to someone who does not know you, having that message helps since not everyone is interested in connecting with just anyone.

  • Know your position

If the person you have reached out to does not know you or hasn’t met you, that person does not owe you anything, remember that! You should keep that in mind when you talk to the person you reached out to. When you engage with that person on LinkedIn, think before making an ask out of the blue. Making an ask before you get to know the person may just kill the relationship before it starts.

  • Stay polite and professional

An extra thank you goes a long way in making a strong professional relationship. Know the kind of conversations you can have, these should be strictly pertaining to work, nothing personal.

Building on the Relationship:

  • Know when and how to stay in touch

Knowing how and when to stay in touch is important. A one-time conversation does not mean it’s a professional connection. It is important to reach out once every three months, unless you got in touch for some other reason, and check on your connection. As a recent graduate, it is your job to reach out every time and be prepared to not hear back once in a while.

  • Translating a digital connection

Once you have a reliable professional connection, figure if that connection is open to meeting over lunch or coffee. Nothing out does a one on one physical meeting.  One you have met your connection; it is likely that the relationship in the process of being solidified. Offer to cover the bill out of politeness. One can simply not put a price on someone else’s time, offering to buy coffee or lunch is a way to show appreciation for their time.

  • Know when to make an ask

Once you have a strong dependable connection, only then you can even consider making an ask, such as, a referral, an introduction to a connection or a request for an internship. Even then, the professional connection does not owe anything to you, so be ready for being turned down. Should that connection be willing to help you, always thank them.

  • Know that you need to return the favor

Professional connections are likely to be transactional in nature. If someone was kind enough to do a favor to you, it is likely that person may expect you to do the same for them. This could be something as simple as making an introduction to someone or helping provide a referral. Exchanges like these are likely to make the connection only stronger.

Networking can be hard. Its challenging and confusing if you don’t know where to begin but using these tips to your benefit may be a start. Conversations driven by honesty and forwardness, while incorporating the said tips is likely to increase your chances of successful networking. It may not be a sure shot way, but it’s a start.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Gursimran Singh Dham
Gursimran is a senior at the Brian Lamb School of Communication of the College of Liberal Arts at Purdue University, USA. He has interned at Blackmore Partners, Chicago, USA, and at Edelman, India. Gursimran’s experience spans internal communications, public affairs, brand, and reputation work. He is currently a part-time consultant to Seraphim Communications, Delhi. He believes in adding value to client work and the power of perseverance.