Rewind to Fall of 2015: I am President of Stonehill College’s Public Relations Society.  The club officers and I are about to hold our second meeting of the semester.  In walks our guest speaker, Hollywood Public Relations Account Manager and Boston’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) Co-Chair, Brooks Wallace.

Brooks talks with club members about pitching reporters, agency life and PRSA Boston’s Emerging Leadership scholarship.

After the PR Society meeting was over, I connected with Brooks on LinkedIn and sent her a thank you note for attending the meeting.  She encouraged me to apply for the PRSA Boston Emerging Leadership scholarship.

A few days after I apply for the scholarship, I receive an email from Brooks saying she was impressed by my application.  I did not win, but am proud to say I was one of the top four applicants.  Brooks then asks if I am interested in applying for an internship with her company, Hollywood Public Relations.  Four months and one invaluable experience later, here I am.

Pause at May of 2016: I just completed my spring semester internship at Hollywood Public Relations.  How was I able to land such an incredible opportunity?  You guessed it … Networking.

Looking back on my senior year, I realize just how valuable networking can be.  By connecting with Brooks, I got my foot in the door with an industry I am passionate about, and writing samples from my PRSA scholarship application circulated through the PRSA Boston Board.

Interning at Hollywood PR also opened up countless connections with PR specialists, journalists and other business professionals whom I otherwise never would have met.

In addition, this spring semester I organized a “Networking Night” hosted by Stonehill’s Public Relations Society.  We were lucky enough to have Jacqueline Dunn, Hollywood Public Relations’ Assistant Account Executive (and a Stonehill alum!), attend the event on the agency’s behalf.  It was a great networking opportunity for students and employers alike.

To my fellow students who are either skeptical about the whole networking thing, or who don’t know where to start, I hope this shows a little insight into the benefits of it.  My advice is to try to do at least one networking activity a day, whether it be connecting with someone on LinkedIn or sharing a blog post written by an industry professional.  Here are five more tips to help you stand out in the wide world of networking:

1.  Participate in organizations like PRSA and PRSSA.  Everyone who is there wants to be there for the same reasons you do.  Members often share the same interests and goals as you.  Getting to know other members and learning from them will benefit you now and in years to come.

2.  Join a club on campus and make it a goal to be on the club’s leadership board.  Attend meetings, engage in conversations and participate in club events.  The time commitment and hard work it takes to be involved is absolutely worth it.  It may not seem like it now, but the work will pay off.  It will, trust me.

3.  Find an excuse for interaction.  If you have a guest speaker at a club meeting, are attending a job/internship fair or have an interview, find ways to spark up conversation.  Research the person you plan to meet and try to find common conversation topics.

4.  Leverage yourself as the “event planning expert” or the “marketing guru” on campus.  Promote your knowledge and skills to other clubs or individuals who could use social media or marketing help.  You’ll be the “go-to” resource if someone needs advice or assistance.

5.  Send thank you notes and follow up emails.  Don’t let your first impression be forgotten!  A hand-written note goes a long way and will make you stand out in employers’ eyes.

6.  Bonus tip: Introduce others and help them network! Connect two people on LinkedIn you think should know each other.  Be sure to follow up with them to see if the connection was worthwhile.  You might be the reason someone lands his or her dream job!

Fast-forward to the future: Upon graduating and completing my internship at Hollywood Public Relations, I am happy to say my network has grown tremendously.  I hope the network I’ve built over the past four years will help me reach my professional goals and advance my career.  Looking ahead, I know the size of my network will only get bigger.  I plan to join industry-related organizations such as PRSA, take part in learning opportunities such as conferences and workshops, and of course I plan to connect, connect and connect some more with professionals on LinkedIn.

I owe much of what I’ve learned about networking to Brooks Wallace.  Because of her guidance and encouragement, I am beginning to understand what it takes to make it in the public relations field.

To Darlene and the rest of the Hollywood team, thank you so much for everything you did to make my internship experience extremely rewarding and valuable.  Not only did I sharpen my writing skills and learn the ropes of PR, I was also lucky enough to work with a fantastic group of people.  I admire your work ethic and can tell you truly love what you do.  Thank you for being great mentors, teachers and colleagues.  I will miss Hollywood Public Relations so much!

Please share your networking stories and connect with me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kblessis!

– Katherine Blessis

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