Published on November 27, 2017, at 5:11 p.m.
by Hope Todd.
Last week I was sitting in an executive board meeting for The University of Alabama’s PRSSA chapter. Our PRSA liaison, Halle Russo, asked if anyone would be interested in going to Birmingham, Alabama, for our state’s PRSA meeting.
“Hmm,” I thought. “I could use a little day trip.”
She then mentioned that we would be presenting an award to our chapter’s professional adviser, Sara Franklin. I’ve known her since my senior year of high school through family friends. She’s incredible.
“I’ll go,” I said without hesitation. “I should be able to get out of classes. I’ll check back with you.”
I checked in with my professors. In order to go, I had to make up a quiz at 8:30 a.m. on a Monday. Gross.
But let me tell ‘ya: It was worth it.
Building a network can seem like a daunting task at first — especially since small talk is often involved.
But once I realized networking is a matter of caring about the people around you, it became a beautiful honor instead of a burdensome necessity.
Here are some networking lessons I learned from my adventure in Birmingham:
1. Know the people you already know.
Halle and I spent the day with the faculty advisers for student organizations we’re in: Tracy Sims from our PRSSA chapter and Teri Henley from Capstone Agency. The entire day was an opportunity to better understand each other’s stories. Travel time from school in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Birmingham is about an hour. After spending this time with them, we understand each other more than we ever did from simply completing day-to-day tasks.
2. Be open-minded.
One of the panelists at the PRSA luncheon was Briana Bryant, PRSSA regional ambassador and the vice president of PRSSA at The University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has an impressive résumé and seems like a knowledgeable person. She came up to me after the luncheon, and I had no idea why at first. But, we discussed what we’d like to see between our two PRSSA chapters, as well as possible job openings in Birmingham. My takeaway from this encounter? Be open-minded to bounce off ideas from those you meet.
3. When you see an opportunity, go for it.
My dad is a public relations professional at an office in Birmingham, o2ideas, which is not far from where we were. I asked my “people” if they wanted to drop by and say hello. We went in for an office tour and met the staff there. Long story short, there is now a project in the works between o2ideas and Capstone Agency. Pretty crazy. If there’s an opportunity for something great, don’t hesitate to jump on it. You never know who you’ll meet or what will come from it.
4. Ask questions and have thoughtful replies.
Be aware of what others are saying. The best way to stay aware is to be curious and ask relevant, appropriate questions. It can be tempting to repeat things back for the sake of having a reply; instead, be thoughtful. Ask follow-up questions and show that you are truly listening. You’ll learn a lot more from people and develop deeper connections.
Now, none of this comes easy. It takes hard work and practice. I’m a senior in college and am just beginning to figure it all out. If you told me two years ago that I’d be writing this blog, I would’ve said you were wrong.
Networking is more than making small talk. It’s small things that lead to knowing a person’s story better. It makes relationships stronger.
And it leads to big things, my friends.