There’s an age-old debate relating to success in the workplace: is it based on who you know or what you know?
As I approach the end of my time at university I can’t help but think do I need more than just a degree? At work we mix with many colleagues within the industry but how well are we doing and to what effect? These are the questions I set about trying to answer.
New media, new messages
As the role and techniques of public relations evolve so too do the methods we choose to use. The London bombings threw the media world into the unknown – the area of citizen journalism where social media comes into its own. Here was a new medium for organisations to communicate directly with the consumers who buy their products, and for individuals to communicate with each other too.
Social networking is defined as: “the grouping of individuals into specific groups, like small rural communities or a neighborhood subdivision. Although social networking is possible in person, especially in schools or in the workplace, it is most popular online. This is because unlike most high schools, colleges, or workplaces, the internet is filled with millions of individuals who are looking to meet other internet users to develop friendships and business relationships, too.” (whatissocialnetworking.com)
Face to face networking is not to be undervalued by any means but it’s not the only way. Other avenues need to be considered too as we move with the changes of the industry.
Social success stories
There have been several noted success stories through networking online, notably Huddersfield PR graduate Matthew Watson who was offered a job at Speed Communications by Stephen Waddington following his tweet about looking for work.
Then there’s recent PR graduate and blogger Ben Cotton.
“My most successful story of online networking came thanks to my blog. I promote PR Chatter via Facebook and this led to someone who I used to go to school with (who now works for a well-know PR consultancy) forwarding my blog to her boss. I was in turn offered a trial with the offer of a job at the end, if I impressed. I was told that I would not have to undertake the usual press release writing and other test as I had demonstrated many of the required skills in my blog. For me this really hammered home the power and potential of online networking and continues to provide me with the motivation to update my online presence.”
Kent State University in the US integrates blogging into its PR degree as a module, forcing students to blog to help them develop social media skills and build up a network prior to graduating into the real world.
“Blogging helps students land jobs,” comments Bill Sledzic, associate professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication within Kent State University. “The blog enhances a digital portfolio by showcasing online skills and understanding. It’s especially helpful with employers who are late adopters of 2.0 communication.”
While working as a CIPR rep I was able to network frequently at our hosted guest lecturers building up a good base of key contacts within varying areas of the industry. Face to face contact not only allowed me to put across my professional capabilities but also enabled them to view my personality too – expressed more easily in person than through text.
Amanda Fox, another placement year student, sums up the benefit of face to face networking: “When you are networking face-to-face, such as at events, you meet a wide range of individuals who will notice you for the person you are – not by your qualifications or CV. Therefore be yourself, show confidence and you never know what may come out of it.”
Rules of engagement
The key to networking face to face and/or online is to recognise that both methods are different and require different rules of engagement.
In a social environment you are often on the fringes of a conversation and it is ok to interject, where you see fit, with your point of view. Online it is slightly different; a relationship first needs to be built up over time whether this is through dialogue on twitter or simply by commenting on their blog – do not go straight to befriending a stranger on Facebook.
Each networking site serves a different purpose. Twitter is good for simply sharing thoughts whereas LinkedIn is better for building professional relationships. Jeroen Panjer highlights LinkedIn’s main benefit: “It’s not about the people you know, but the people they know.” Ensure you use each for the correct purpose and to suit your needs.
Careless talk costs jobs
We all need to remember that social networking takes place in the public domain. You may have heard of Kimberley Swann who was sacked for her status updates on Facebook commenting that her new job was ‘boring’. Although there are certain things you may be able to keep private by using the privacy settings available, whatever you put up in writing and will potentially be recorded in an internet archive forever.
Should you consider networking online you need to remember that it is time consuming but in turn can reap the rewards – consider it an investment and in turn it might turn into a passion (like it has for me). To see what presence you have on the web already, search for your name + PR (here’s my result). The more online social networks you are involved in, the better the search results you will have.
Let’s face it, networking is vital for a PR student or graduate full stop whether this be face to face or through social networking. A combination of both is recommended – you need a personality as well as being able to demonstrate good writing abilities to a larger audience.
When asked which was better, Samuel Brookes, O2 sandwich year placement and Leeds Metropolitan student, says: “Both! Use online to branch far and wide with so many people but you have to do it face to face to get the benefits of more personal relationships!”
Whether you are collecting business cards at an event or tweeting away online, always remain yourself and above all enjoy it. Who knows what it might lead to – but if you’re not networking, there’s always a danger you might end up not working.