The popular “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has come back in-style (if it ever left), so networking is becoming more important than ever. Whether you are in college or already a veteran PR professional, it is a pretty well-known fact that getting to know people in the industry is a good idea. As a 2011 graduate myself, internships were pushed on me constantly for this exact reason – networking. I am not here to lie and say that internships are overrated. Internships are probably the best possible way to network and get your name out in your field, and I had many friends who secured a job solely because of their internships. Aside from networking, internships can give you a real look into what it’s like to work in PR. In other words, I agree that if you can get an internship, you are probably ahead of most.
However, during my time in school I noticed that there were many college students who simply could not afford to spend a summer at an internship for a variety of reasons: children, finances, summer school, etc. Most internships are unpaid and take up a lot of time; therefore a lot of roadblocks can stand in a college student’s way. For example, if a student changed his/her major but still wanted to graduate in 4 years, he/she would need to take summer school, not spend time being an intern. For others, being able to work 40 hours a week is a necessity, and a pay cut simply is not an option.
Fortunately, there are other things you can do if you hope to major in PR and an internship isn’t in sight. Make no mistake; if you can somehow make an internship work, this is the path to take. However, do not count yourself out of the game if “internship” will not appear on your resume. Below are a few things you can do before you graduate to help give you an edge:
5 Ways to Network Without an Internship
- Public Relations Groups/Fraternities – For most disciplines there is a fraternity that you can join. While a fraternity often comes at a price, there are invaluable lessons and experiences that the fraternity can expose you to, and this includes opportunities to network. If your college or University does not have a PRSSA chapter, consider starting one on campus. If you are majoring in PR, chances are you can get most of the major to join (and starting an organization looks great on a resume!)
- Mock Interview – Chances are you will have the opportunity to do a mock interview with someone in your field either through a seminar, a class, or even with a professor. Seek out these opportunities so you get interview experience from someone who knows what employers look for in a PR employee.
- Social Media – It is a great idea to start becoming familiar with social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These are great ways to network online and will certainly come in handy when you do land that first job. Another great way to utilize the Internet is to blog and read blogs about the PR profession (but looks like I’m preaching to the choir) to help you stay up-to-date so you’re ready for interview questions.
- Seminars and Conferences – Go online and check to see if there are any PR seminars or conferences going on in your area. Seminars are great not only to learn about the hot PR topics, but to meet people and start getting your name out in the field.
- Volunteer – Ask if there are opportunities to volunteer with a local PR agency. Volunteering is great because it is not as time consuming as an internship, but allows for very similar networking opportunities.
Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer on topics ranging from social media to factoring services. She writes for an online resource that gives advice on topics including document software to small businesses and entrepreneurs at Resource Nation.