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sh“Whom you encounter today may change your future tomorrow.” I try to keep this self-motto in mind ever since attending the 2013 PRSSA National Conference/ 2013 PRSA International Conference in Philadelphia.  It was at the Reading Terminal Market that I met Abbie, while ordering my first, and definitely not my last, Philly cheesesteak.

I noticed Abbie and her friend Dana were wearing PRSA badges. It was the perfect opportunity to strike up a conversation, seeing how we all had something in common in the City of Brotherly Love. My friends and I introduced ourselves to Abbie and Dana, sharing that we were attending our first PRSSA National Conference. After finding out where Abbie and Dana were from, I learned that I had even more in common with them than previously thought.

As you know, Abbie is vice president/general manager at HMA Public Relations. Dana is also in the public relations industry in Raleigh, N.C. I was shocked to hear this as the majority of my family live in both Phoenix and Raleigh. Eagerly, I asked to exchange business cards with my new professional contacts and let them know I would be in touch next time I was in the area. About two weeks after the conference ended, I decided to follow up by email to share how great it was to meet them.

A few months later, my senior spring break was in sight. As I pondered on whether I should stay in Bloomington, Ill. or travel to Phoenix, I decided to email Abbie to see if we could schedule an informational interview so I could learn more about her, the firm and pick her brain as much as possible. After she told me she was available to meet, the decision was clear: I needed to spend my senior spring break networking for my future.

After meeting with Abbie for nearly two hours at Black Cat Coffee House (a new favorite of mine), she asked if I wanted to tour the office and meet the HMA team. Of course, I said “yes” and kept thinking to myself how perfect this had become.

About a month after our visit, I received an email from Abbie wanting to discuss the possibility about having me intern at HMA over the summer. Despite the Arizona heat, the opportunity was too perfect to pass up. Making conversation with Abbie that day in Philadelphia was one of the best things I have done for myself, professionally.

The power of networking is infinite. It can do wonders for you if you know how to do it. Here are a few networking tips I want to share.

1.  Talk to people – Whether you are in line at the grocery store or surrounded by like-minded individuals, strike up a conversation. If you see that you have something in common with someone, share that information with him or her.

For example, I was at McDonald's last week (here in Arizona) and noticed a man was wearing a University of Illinois t-shirt. I went up to him and his wife asking where they were from, letting them know I was from Illinois. I came to find out that his wife had earned her master’s degree from the same college at Illinois State University as I did with my undergraduate degree. We even had the same professor. That made my day. Even if you do not foresee a networking opportunity enhancing your career, it can introduce you to people with common interests and brighten your day.

2. Have business cards on hand – Even if you are a student or in between jobs, having a card with your contact information goes a long way. It can mean the difference between someone reaching out to you after meeting and not hearing back at all.

3. Follow up with those you meet – Writing an email to someone after you meet him or her is perfectly normal and will make you memorable and stand out.

4. Send thank you notes – If you meet with someone and pick their brain, as I did with Abbie, or go in for an interview, write that person a thank you card. As Abbie mentioned in a previous post, handwriting and mailing thank you cards goes a long way in today world. It is much more thoughtful than an email.

5. Be nice to people – It could be a smile or it could be asking how their day is going, whatever it be, make it genuine.

Shelby Ray
Shelby Ray
A former HMA Public Relations employee.

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