The Importance of Networking
As a graduate program director, I often have conversations with undergraduate students and working professionals considering a graduate education. One of their top concerns is whether a graduate degree will help them secure a job post-graduation or pave the way for advancement at their current job. As The Muse points out, there are great reasons to obtain a master's degree in communication: (1) you want to acquire expertise in communication, (2) you want to improve your research and presenting skill set, and (3) you want to learn to write effectively for multiple platforms and audiences.
I like to also point out that a degree alone does not equal success. In addition to earning the graduate degree, I urge potential students to engage in effective networking. In fact, Forbes magazine deems it essential for one's career. According to the magazine, networking provides: a road to newer opportunities, a reassessment of your qualifications, a "library" of information and access, support from high profile professionals, greater self-confidence, and long-lasting relationships. Here are three ways you can begin networking effectively, no matter where you are in your graduate studies.
1. Get LinkedIn
I can't say enough about maintaining an active presence on LinkedIn. Here are just a few stats on the social network: (1) half of internet users with a college degree use LinkedIn, (2) four out of of five LinkedIn users are decision makers at their company, and (3) more than 4 million LinkedIn users were hired through the site in 2019. I have personally taught students who finished their degree with an internship or job as a result of recruitment through LinkedIn. The connections you make on LinkedIn increase your access to information and organizations. In addition to connecting with individuals, LinkedIn allows you to build relationships by engaging with groups of interest to you. For instance, I am currently in the alumni groups of my universities, as well as the Public Relations, Corporate and Media Community group, the PR Daily group, and the International Communication Association group. To learn more about building your LinkedIn profile, click here.
2. Join Professional Organizations
Connecting with a professional organization places you at the forefront of industry trends. It also connects you with other professionals in the industry and offers opportunities for professional development through seminars, workshops, and conferences. Over the last year, I have been fortunate to attend webinars on topics ranging from crisis communication to storytelling to diversity and inclusion. Each of these areas is directly applicable to my work as a professor and my overall strategic communication toolkit. Members of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) receive access to monthly publications, professional development and networking opportunities. Members of the American Advertising Federation (AAF) also receive discounts from various organizations, including AdAge, the premier publication of the advertising industry. Likewise, members of the American Marketing Association (AMA) receive opportunities for professional development and networking, along with access to Marketing News magazine and journals. Finally, professional organizations provide opportunities to serve in leadership roles, a much-sought after skill in most industries. I've included a list of organizations below to get you started.
3. Attend Professional Events
Most professional organizations host an annual conference and numerous regional conferences, which feature workshops and seminars on the latest industry trends. A recent AMA conference included sessions on relationship marketing, cultural analysis in the marketplace, brand management, and writing and responding to peer reviews. The events also present amazing opportunities to interact with others in the field, who you can remain connected with on LinkedIn. Curtis & Coulter offer five reasons people attend conferences, each of which I feel are beneficial for you: (1) networking, (2) gaining knowledge, (3) presenting your ideas, (4) allowing people to meet you, and (5) learning beyond your chosen field. If you haven't attended a professional conference, I encourage you to give it a try.
As you continue in the program, take a moment at the end of each course to reflect on what you are learning beyond the classroom. What are the life lessons you are gaining from this experience? I would love to hear and perhaps share them in a future newsletter. Email your life lessons to email@example.com. Also, if you haven't completed the student profile Google form, please do. I would love to feature you in an upcoming newsletter.