It’s happened to all of us; if it hasn’t happened to you, it will.
I was recently invited to attend the 2017 Edward L. Bernays Mark of Excellence Awards hosted by the San Diego and Imperial Counties’ chapters of the Public Relations Society of America. Each year this event recognizes the top public relations accomplishments from the previous year and offers public relations professionals a great opportunity to network with their colleagues in the region.
Having begun my internship at NST three months ago, I was the new guy at the party.
My initial excitement about being invited to the event quickly turned into dread as I came to a sudden realization: I don’t yet have an established network. I don’t have clients of my own. I don’t even have my own business cards. But the seat was paid for and the table was set, so how was I going to make the most out of this opportunity?
It’s important to note that I am not the only one who has been in this position and, more than likely, there was another person floating around this event thinking and feeling the same way. You are not alone. It’s also worth recognizing that everyone else enjoying the party had been in the same shoes at some point and they made it just fine (look, they’re all having fun).
Here are a few strategies I learned to get out there and be make the most out of networking when you’re the new kid on the block:
- Collect cards – Just because you don’t have a business card to give doesn’t mean you get to sit this step out. Chat up people while you wait in line for the photo booth or your drink. If you recognize an organization but not the associate attending, introduce yourself. Networking begins with small talk and ends with big connections. Take advantage of the time you have to meet people and make sure you follow up. Without a card of your own, they won’t be able to contact you if they’re interested in something you’ve said. The ball is in your court and luck favors the proactive.
- Use your team to make introductions – The firm I work for has extensive connections throughout San Diego. Some of the more senior associates and vice presidents have been practicing PR in San Diego for decades. Introductions equal connections. Don’t hesitate to utilize the networks of the people around you.
- Pay attention – Watch the people around you and pick up on tips and tricks that allow for creating meaningful connections. Your coworkers have been doing this longer than you have and their methods can become a starting point for teaching yourself how to meet people.
- Have fun – While this is a business function at the core, remember this is supposed to be fun. Networking events are a great way to meet people in a relaxed setting. You would be surprised how many of the people at a work event have the same or similar interests, skills, and careers that you have or are working toward. Ask questions and listen to the answers. This is only the beginning.
Just because you don’t have an extensive portfolio or a drawer full of business cards, remember, you were invited because you have the skills and drive to do what you do. Don’t let your lack of experience keep you from building your network and having a good time.
Do you have networking tips to share for new professionals? If so, please leave them in a comment on our Facebook page so we can all become better at networking.