I spoke to a group of university students studying public relations last week. The students all had an interest in entertainment, special events and sports so the journalism school offered a panel of guest speakers to discuss these types of careers. The program started with a moderator asking questions and then we finished with a question and answer session.
I enjoyed participating in the panel. The students had great questions and were very engaged. During the question and answer session one student asked about networking. He is a DJ that specializes in a very specific type of music. I could tell he was passionate about his work. He said he was occasionally in situations where he was building relationships with contacts at parties, but often the next day he would regret what he did or said because he had been drinking. This young man’s situation is not rare, especially in the service and entertainment industry. These things are bound to happen unless you take extra precautions and know your limits.
This was the networking advice I gave him…
- Protect Your Reputation
Do whatever you can to protect your reputation. Then I went on and explained how when I was growing up my mother told me I had a midnight curfew because nothing good happens after midnight. I could see his eyes about to burst out of his head at the thought of a midnight curfew, so I recommended he give himself a curfew around 2:00 a.m., which isn’t bad in this 24-hour town. He is a DJ so it is important for him to be out networking, but it is also important for him to leave before all the drama goes down and people start acting crazy. If people perceive you to be a partier that has too much fun, they won’t perceive you to be a smart expert in your field. Perception becomes reality. People fail to realize how important reputations are to being successful.
- Be Genuine
There is so many fake people in the world today, it is exacerbated and encouraged by social media and reality television. People can tell if you aren’t genuine. There is a certain sixth sense that most people have that allows them to tell when someone is fake. If you want to build good working relationships and your network you need to keep it real. This doesn’t mean you should over share, it just means you need to be authentic so people will get to know the real you. People like helping and doing business with people they know and trust.
- Diversify your Network
Don’t just network at parties and industry events. Every person you meet has something to add to your life. It is important to have a broad network with people from many different fields. Grow your network to include people with different backgrounds, ages, races, religion, political views, special interests and hobbies. You wouldn’t believe how many opportunities I’ve had because a friend mentioned me to a business acquaintance, friend or family member. I recommend joining clubs and pursuing hobbies that will introduce you to people from different circles. Life Lesson: Don’t just make friends at “da club.”
These are just a few words of wisdom shared with the journalism students. I appreciated the student asking such a direct question about networking. One piece of advice that I wish I would have hit harder is to keep an open mind while developing your network. Keeping an open mind and meeting different people in different situations will introduce you to new possibilities you never dreamed of, and will help you grow as a professional. This is a life lesson that once learned can really make a difference.
Looking to improve your networking skills?
Check out this article from Inc.Com.
7 Networking Tips for Introverts, Extroverts, and the Socially Awkward
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