The importance of networking

With so many talented public relations professionals, it’s no longer about what you know, it’s all about who you know. Networking is an essential skill that, when used wisely, can help you find future employment and enhance your career advancement opportunities. According to University Career Services, as many as 90% of open positions are filled as a result of networking. As an internship-seeking student, this statistic fills me with hope that all of those networking nights, resume workshops and a completed LinkedIn profile will help me in the hunt for my first job.

Though networking has endless benefits, the thought of actually going to a networking event and making small talk with potential employers is nerve-racking. So I spoke with business communication/etiquette expert and UNC alumna, Jane Hight McMurry, to find out how to make the most of my networking opportunities.

Q: What is a good way to practice and improve your networking skills?

A: Develop your network by attending social and business events.  Don’t be shy. When you enter an event, have a networking goal of perhaps garnering three to five follow-up appointments/conversations. Clarify what you hope to learn and prepare two questions to get the information you seek. Don’t aimlessly walk around! Make others feel good and get people you meet to talk about themselves. It’s okay to ask people what they do and how they happen to be attending the event. Put yourself in host mode. Act as if you belong and are thrilled to be included!

Q: What tips do you have to prepare for a networking event?

A: To be successful in every setting you must not only know yourself but also know the people, their environment and their behavior. Before you go anywhere, consider who, what, when, where, why and how.

  • Who are the participants?
  • What is the purpose?
  • When will you be there?
  • Where will you be?
  • Why are you going?
  • How can you be the most effective in accomplishing your goals?

Q: What is the most important thing to do at a networking event?

A: To focus on others. If you think about others, who they are and steer conversation that is other-focused, you will find making connections with others easy. Ask questions that make them feel valued. Learn about your conversation partners in advance and use face-to-face meetings to learn more. The people you meet will love you when you do that.

Q: Do you have any tips to make initial contact and meetings less awkward?

A: Read the trade journals of potential conversation partners who function in a particular industry. These journals will help you to identify the hot issues concerning the industry as well as supply you with the vocabulary you need to sound like an insider.

Both the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and University Career Services provide numerous opportunities and resources for networking on-campus. J-Link on the JOMC website is a great way to find Carolina alums that work in the PR industry and this Friday, April 8, 2011, the Journalism Alumni and Friends Association will be hosting a career fair in Carroll Hall. So update those resumes and put Jane Hight McMurry’s advice to use, because a great professional network is crucial in this industry.

Sarah Murphy, Member

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