Saturday, February 25, 2012
Your Career and You: "Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave..."
No, I’m not going to get all Sir Walter Scott-y on you. It’s just that this particular phrase from “Marmion” provides a cool intro to my thoughts on networking and why you must do it.
Last night, we hosted the second annual PRSA Boston/PRSSA “Your Career in Public Relations” event at Curry College, where I lead the Communication Department’s undergraduate Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the undergrad PR courses. (I also teach in Regis College’s Organizational and Professional Communications graduate program, but Curry is where I hang out most of the time.)
The program featured a panel of PR professionals who briefly talked about their respective careers, and then we broke off into what I refer to as “speed dating” sessions where attendees had a chance to meet one-on-one or in small groups with professionals from areas in which they had an interest.
Every single speaker…ranging from fresh-out-of-college (she actually graduates in May) to senior practitioner (two of whom, like me, have made several significant job switches in the course of their career)…stressed time and again the vital importance of networking as part of your job search.
As one speaker put it so well, “Networking is not a one-time thing. It’s an ongoing investment in your future.”
Couldn’t say it better myself. I’ve said time and again in previous posts that networking…making and nurturing contacts…is one of the most important aspects of the job search/job refinement process. Some people do it very well; others not so much.
And it’s not easy, especially for those of us who, again, as I have said a bazillion times about myself, are “card-carrying introverts.”
The thing is, you don’t know what you don’t know…and networking is one way to fill in some of the gaps.
Fewer and fewer jobs, especially in the public relations profession, are being filled through time-worn traditional media advertising.
Word-of-mouth is becoming more and more the norm. “I’m looking for a (fill in the blank). Who do you know who might be a good candidate?”
So what does this mean for you, the job seeker?
It means, simply, that you have to put yourself “out there.” You have to “see and be seen.”
It also means that you have to do your homework and become aware of the opportunities for you to be “out there.”
What are the professional PR-related organizations in your area? Bookmark their websites and check regularly for upcoming events. Subscribe to their newsletters if they have one so that you receive notifications and can keep up with other activities that they might have going on.
Here in the Boston area, for example, we have a plethora of organizations from which to choose: Boston Chapter, PRSA; Publicity Club of New England; Yankee Chapter, IABC; Social Media Club of Boston; Boston Women Communicators, and probably a couple that I’ve missed.
I regularly attend PRSA, Pub Club, and Social Media Club events, and I’m never at a loss for new contacts and new job or internship opportunities for my students.
I take a pocketful of business cards and make my way around the room, either chatting with folks who I already know and catching up on their activities since we last crossed paths or…not easy for the king of introverts!… walking up to strangers, introducing myself, and starting a conversation from scratch.
Sometimes I come home with a pile of business cards; sometimes just two or three. But, in both cases, they are either new contacts or I have updated information for current contacts.
Again, I’m not the best example of this craft given my own personality issues. But my contact database is continually expanding, and I always have new possibilities for my students’ internships or job searches.
So take a cue from Sir Walter…build yourself a “tangled web”…not “to deceive” but to benefit from...with a network of contacts that you can draw on now and forever.
"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one." - Jane Howard