I’ve heard it said before, success does not rest upon skill alone; a huge part is about who you know. Public relations (PR) professionals know, networking is the backbone of our professional success. Our business, our jobs, our career development – it all relies on networking.
For clarification, networking is the act of connecting with other people and developing relationships that create a sort of link or professional network. This past week I had the opportunity to do just that at a Public Relations Society of America Suburban Chicago (PRSASCC) Chapter. Being hosted in a private room at a restaurant up north, the meeting was used by myself and my team to launch a campaign we had been working on all semester for my PR capstone class, Strategy and Implementation. I chose this client because of the unique opportunities it would present to me, more specifically, the chances it would give me to network and make connections with professionals in the Chicagoland area. There’s just one little problem.
I HATE networking.
People assume that because I am an extrovert that I must love networking with other people, and to an extent I can see how that could be true, but the truth is that I hate most social interactions where I have to interact with strangers. This has nothing to do with my personality but rather my anxiety. This is normal for most people, and knowing how important building a professional network is, it is something you have to move past. So, to help others who might be suffering from the same affliction that I do, I wanted to share some tips of how to overcome the fear that professional interaction might bring.
- BREATHE. Arguably the most important tip I can offer. You must remember that everyone is probably feeling the same way. In order to successfully navigate an event, just remember to breathe in and breathe out. Take it slow when introducing yourself and be sure to move at a steady pace. Breathing slowly allows you to ensure that you won’t trip over your words or fumble over any introductions.
- Have a buddy Having a friend along side you can prove very useful when attempting to alleviate the pressure that networking events can bring. With someone along side you, the conversation can be shared and it can allow both of you to feel a little more at ease.
- Know your value! Don’t be afraid to tastefully brag about yourself. What I mean by tastefully is that you shouldn’t name drop and be overly cocky, but don’t be afraid to flaunt your accomplishments IF the moments calls for it. You never know what you are going to say that will catch the other person’s interest or intrigue. I do believe that when professionals are networking with students they are used to hearing the same old song and dance. So be sure when you are engaging a professional, find the unique piece of yourself and use it to hook and reel them in.
- Trust your gut. To round this experience out, always trust your gut. If your every fiber of being is screaming at you to go talk to a certain individual, GO TALK TO THEM. You never know what could lie on the other side of the fear that separates you from meeting a new individual. But, your gut could also be telling you when it is time to walk away and stop wasting your time. If someone is not giving you what you think you might need, trust your instincts and move on.
Last weeks event with PRSASCC was the first networking opportunity where I finally began to feel myself ease up. Perhaps this comes from experience and repetition, but maybe it comes from knowing who I am and learning how to adapt to my surroundings. All I know is that at the end of the day, networking can’t be avoided, and as students, it is best for us to learn how to navigate the waters now rather than get thrown in fresh out of college with no connections. My hope is that together we can help each other learn, adapt, and grow in our careers, and that can only come from networking.
By Kate Cox, Account Executive, Kankakee County Center Against Sexual Assault (KC-CASA)