Networking is a subject public relations students hear about often, but those same students rarely grasp its full significance for advancing a career. Building relationships with potential employers, or those connected to potential employers, is vital for college students finding their way in today’s job market. Networking is often perceived as a natural gift one either has or doesn’t have. But in fact, there are ways to grow as a networker and increase the likelihood a company you find exciting will hire you.
Why Networking Matters
The old adage “it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know” is a cliché for a reason – there is an element of truth to that statement. While knowing someone at a company or organization does not guarantee you a position, having a personal or professional connection to the employer can give one candidate an edge over similarly qualified applicants.
Having connections at the organizations you are most interested in working for can give you name recognition and a sense of credibility candidates without a specific connection cannot match. When a current, or former, employee in good standing at a company gives a candidate a personal endorsement there is a sense of inferred trust in their assessment that few other references could possibly achieve.
How to Grow Your Networking Skills
Practice, Practice, Practice. Many people believe that networking is about the natural ability to converse with strangers and thus cannot be learned. However, networking is a skill that can be developed over time because it’s primarily about feeling comfortable interacting with people you have never met before.
The way to become a better conversationalist, and thus a better networker, is by learning to feel comfortable meeting someone new and share what you could bring to their organization. While some people are more comfortable with meeting strangers than others, everyone can improve this skill through repetition.
Resources for Becoming A Better Networker
The Liberty University Career Center is an excellent source of information and contacts for students who are interested in networking opportunities. The many career fairs hosted by the Career Center provide opportunities for face-to-face interactions with representatives from a variety of organizations that can lead to valuable relationships. Even if the connections made at career fairs do not directly result in securing a position, the interactions the career fairs facilitate can serve as helpful practice for future networking opportunities.
The Career Center’s LU Network also has a wide array of information regarding who to talk to about the jobs you’re interested in and how to contact them. Even if you are not a Liberty University student, similar opportunities are offered through local Young Professionals networking events and career centers on other university campuses. Landing your dream job in the competitive world of public relations can be difficult, but with the right strategy and the right contacts, no position is out of reach.