Sunday, May 8, 2011

Networking for Fun and Profit

Networking is how you will get a job. My students hear me say this a dozen times a semester. That’s why I bring successful former students of mine back to the Marist campus to talk about how they got their first job, progressed into the position they have today, and get noticed for their accomplishments. Those alumni and alumnae, in turn, offer their help to review resumes and cover letters, provide advice on how to conduct the job search from application to interview to acceptance, and generate leads on openings in their own organizations or at other companies.

The Marist network is very strong in many fields.  It’s not just communication; it’s information technology and computer science, teaching, criminal justice, finance and business administration.  Many alums have signed on to be part of the Marist Alumni Career Network, a great resource for students getting ready to graduate and alums who are looking to move up or move into a new field.  Generally speaking, Marist students enjoy their four years at the college, learn, work substantive internships, make many friends, and have a good time.  All of those activities go far in preparing someone for the work world.

I also take my students to Manhattan every semester to see Marist grads at their places of work. This year, we visited Kaplow (@kaplowpr), where Robert Gedarovich (@rgedarov) is supervising digital & media strategist for technology & consumer practice (nice title).  Among his accounts is Foursquare (@foursquare).  We also visited David Heinzinger (@dvyhnz), senior account manager at G.S. Schwartz.  Bob and Dave have made names for themselves in the use of social media in public relations.  Their roads to where they are today serve as an inspiration to current students, many of whom fret they won’t find a job, particularly in this down economy.  Positions, especially entry-level, are opening again, and as part of that Marist network, I often get job leads from my former students or from Marist grads whom I’ve gotten to know through twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media platforms.

How else can a prospective public relations pro network?  If a student is not a member of PRSSA (@PRSSANational), s/he should be.  There are workshops, conferences, and other events, some of which have minimal cost.  Attend them, mix and mingle, introduce yourself, and exchange business cards.  More and more students are printing their own business cards, which are a great, inexpensive investment.  No matter how technologically advanced we become, the business card will always be around.

The social media platforms I mentioned earlier are also networking opportunities. If you’re a public relations major, I invite you to go through my twitter lists, especially PR and SocialMedia. There are many pros on those lists, people who may someday be a potential employer.  Follow them and create a conversation with them.

Participate in twitter chats.  There are many, but two I recommend in particular are #journchat (Mondays from 8 to 10 p.m. ET) and #prstudchat, held monthly but with frequent hashtag posts daily.  Both are a mix of journalists, public relations practitioners, and current students.  You can also joined their LinkedIn groups –  for #journchat:; and for #prstudchat:  Search for other groups on LinkedIn that represent your interests and participate in those discussions. 

There are twitter chats on a wide variety of personal and professional interests.  My "adopted son," Luke Shane (@LShane262), is a phenomenal marathon runner.  I've watched him in the Philadelphia Marathon, where he finished 53rd out of almost 9,000 runners in 2:42:52, and the Boston Marathon, where he finished 341st out of nearly 30,000 runners, despite running on no fuel thanks to an errant fire alarm in our hotel at 5 a.m. marathon morning.  He has been networking in the running world, has some very well-known marathoners following him, and participated in his first #runchat tonight.  Luke had many of his points retweeted and he picked up more than a dozen followers because he knew what he was talking about and he knows how to create and encourage conversations via social media.  Luke's blog, Witness the Fitness, was an inspiration for me to start "Looking Through Stained Glass."

Follow blogs and offer your informed opinion.  There are many, but among those I recommend are RepMan, PR at Sunrise, The Bad Pitch Blog, PR 2.0, Euro RSCB Blog, and The Flack (although I despise that term).  Read posts and comment – but use your real name.  Many of these blog writers are partners or other senior members of firms.  If you are on their wavelength, or even if you’re not but can defend your point of view, you will get noticed.  If there is an opening, you could be contacted by the blogger, or you can apply and be a familiar name to the person who will make the hire.  Prove your value, your knowledge, your ability to think strategically.  These are qualities sought by employers.

The days of applying for a job via a newspaper “want ad” are over, and you may be surprised that the offer that comes from a posting is a glorified boiler room cold calling operation.  You have a better chance of getting that first job by making contacts and becoming known.  You will still have to prove you have the skills and character traits to earn that job.  Once you get it, work hard, do more than is required, get noticed for your successes, and future offerings will come to you.  PR is a small community.  My students marvel at how intertwined individuals are.  Co-workers today may be competitors tomorrow, and vice versa.  Who knows how someone you meet today can help you down the line, or how you can help him or her.

One last thing…what a week I had!  It was exceedingly busy and will be for the remaining fortnight of the semester, so there goes the idea of posting at least three times a week.  Alex Shippee (@AlexShippee34) graduated from Marist a year ago and is someone whom I greatly respect and deeply admire.  I don’t know too many 20-somethings who read Dante for pleasure.  Alex does.  He is well read, an outstanding writer, and best of all, a wonderful person.  When he gives me advice, I listen.  I asked Alex for feedback on my first few posts and I hope he doesn’t mind me telling you what he said:

“High quality content goes a long way. I was blown away by your ambition to post 3 times a week (!) and definitely wish you luck, but you know better than I that blog content sits a while. Weak posts can do more damage than a period of silence. If you're ever unsure about a particular post, let it sit in 'drafts' while you think about it. Knowing you, you'll have another great story before too long, especially if your first three blogs are any indication.”

Excellent suggestion, Alex.  I’m still learning, too and I appreciate your help.  You can follow Alex’s blog at

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tim,

    Thank you, as always, for your kind words. I DEFINITELY don't mind you reposting my comment and am very grateful for the link to my blog. I hope my two cents were helpful and I'm looking forward to the next edition of "Looking Through Stained Glass."

    And you're the only guy I know who can make me blush while reading a blog!