Networking from a Student’s Perspective

By Patrick Fernandez

George Mason University's Public Relations Student Society of America chapter attended the PRSA-NCC happy hour.

George Mason University’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter attended the PRSA-NCC happy hour.

Last week I attended a PRSA-NCC networking happy hour catered toward students and entry and junior level public relations professionals. Students and professionals from northern Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland attended and were eager to network and share ideas.

A lot of students can find networking to be daunting. I remember when I went to my first networking event, everything was fast-paced and it felt like I had to share every detail of my college experiences in a mere 45 seconds. Networking for the first time reminds me of meeting a significant other’s family for the first time; you have to find a balance between putting your best foot forward while not stepping on someone else’s toes.

When networking, it is important to understand that public relations is a peoples’ business. As intimidating as networking can be, everyone is there to meet others which makes it a little easier. Networking is a great tactic to learn about someone’s job or company they work for, but what makes it even better is when people can create relationships that go beyond professional life. Sure, someone might have an interesting job or might have developed a cool way to measure a brand’s social media sentiment, but what makes networking worthwhile is learning and sharing details about each other’s lives that might not be in their cover letter. Effective networkers share details about themselves but more importantly they are able to listen, comprehend and convey interest in what their peers share with them. To be different is not to change the way you act but simply be yourself at networking events.

PRSA-NCC provides many opportunities for students to network with public relations professionals. After I left this event I realized I truly belong in this industry. I enjoyed being able to network with students at different schools and with professionals who are just beginning their careers.

The success of this event makes me eager to attend future PRSA-NCC functions. As my college career comes to a close I know these experiences are invaluable ways to help boost my brand and make connections in an industry I am passionate about.


American University PRSSA Chapter Combats Networking Nervousness with “Night with PRSA”

by Bridget Bradley

“Networking” is one of our favorite buzzwords. It used to just be one of the ways that a college grad could get a job, but statistics show that in recent years up to 80 percent of jobs have been found through networking.

American University PRSSA's Night with PRSAThat’s a statistic way too big to ignore, especially if you’re on the job hunt. At American University, students are constantly encouraged to get as many internships as they can before they graduate, and students take that encouragement very seriously. With 90 percent of AU undergrads having internship experience by the time they graduate, there’s a lot of pressure to keep up.

This kind of pressure can make networking with professionals intimidating. Students often become awkward, timid and afraid to say the wrong thing. Or worse, students are afraid to say anything at all.

The AU PRSSA chapter wanted its members to be able to practice talking to professionals, so they called in some experts: AU Prof. Gemma Puglisi, and PRSA-NCC members Tony Ruffin and Adara Ney.

American University PRSSA's Night with PRSAThe chapter brought in some sandwiches and salad, and invited its members to sit down for a meal with its guests. Chapter president Jenna Mosely encouraged everyone to use this low-pressure opportunity to build confidence talking to professionals and to do a little networking.

As a member, even a member with past internship experience, I can say these kinds of experiences are invaluable. I got the chance to talk to professionals who really wanted to talk to me, hear about my experiences and get to know me as a student and a future professional, without feeling all the pressures of an interview.

No internship fair tables, no pressure to out-do, out-smart, or out-perform my power-suit-wearing classmates: just a sandwich and a friendly group conversation.

It’s always a thrill to meet professionals in my area, but very rarely do I get time to just talk with them. Especially here in DC, life moves incredibly fast. Minutes are precious, and that’s why this opportunity felt so special. It’s rare that anyone has a few minutes to just “chat.”

Bridget Bradley is a junior at American University, a member of PRSSA, and a board member of the Kogod Marketing Association.

Whether Student or PR Pro, Fall = Change

By: Jennifer Schleman, APR

Crispness has filled the air and soon leaves will begin to fall. Whether you are a student or not, fall signals change – shorter days, cooler evenings and a quicker pace than those dog days of August.

PRSA-NCC has a variety of ways for both students and professionals to get involved. For students, the best way to connect with other public relations students and professionals is by joining your local Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter. In the Washington, DC region, five universities have PRSSA chapters.

  1. American University, Facebook page and website, describes its AU PRSSA chapter as “dedicated to bringing advertising, public relations, marketing and communication students together professionally and socially.” Members help plan chapter events, hold conference fundraisers and “start building their career while still in school.”
  2. George Mason University, Facebook page and website, has a mission to “serve our members by enhancing their knowledge of public relations and providing access to professional development opportunities.” Students not only participate in professional development programs but also can volunteer for chapter committees and other events.
  3. Hood College, Facebook page, located in Frederick, Md., is the “youngest” of the PRSSA chapters in the Washington area and is housed in the College’s Integrated Marketing and Communications Programs. The chapter offers students “practical and professional contacts and experiences … (and) opportunities for leadership within this organization.”
  4. Howard University, Facebook page, is home to the D. Parke Gibson Chapter of PRSSA. Founded in 1985, the chapter describes itself as a “pre-professional student run organization with more than 200 members across the nation.” Named after D. Parke Gibson, a pioneer in multicultural public relations as well as the founder of the first black-owned PR firm, D. Parke Gibson International, in New York, the chapter is located within the John H. Johnson School of Communications (JHJSOC) at Howard and was the first Historically Black College or University chapter within PRSSA.
  5. University of Maryland, College Park, Facebook page and website, gives students the opportunity to network with each other and with professionals in the DC region. According to their website, the chapter “develops several events throughout the year to connect students with exciting opportunities in the field of public relations.” This includes annual tours of some of the largest public relations firms in Washington.

And if you are a professional looking for a way to give back to future public relations professionals, join us on the PRSA-NCC University Relations Committee! The Committee is looking for volunteers to act as liaisons to the local university PRSSA chapters listed above to help mentor students and provide counsel on their chapters’ programming and other activities. If you are interested in joining the committee, please contact me. And don’t forget to like the University Relations Committee Facebook page!

Jennifer Schleman, APR, is co-chair of the PRSA-NCC University Relations Committee and a PRSA-NCC Board Member. She is the senior associate director of media relations for the American Hospital Association.