[By Tayjua Squire]

Making connections, building relationships, communicating – these are three concepts that define the public relations profession. The Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) Hamilton Chapter launched the academic year for their student members with an event theme encompassing these concepts – networking.

The event, “Charting the Course: A Guide to Effective Networking,” took place on Thursday, Nov. 10 at Toast Wine Bar  in Hamilton. The event was organized by Toni Shelton and Shelby Riddell, with the assistance of the CPRS Hamilton student representatives, Heather Francey (Sheridan College), Jasmine Fernandes (Mohawk College) and Graeme Collins (Niagara College).

Three guest speakers provided critical insight into the importance of networking.

The first speaker, Alex Anderson, public affairs specialist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, informed students to be cautious of committing the following major networking faux pas:

  • To only network when you need something: she stressed how crucial it is to treat networking as an on-going investment in your life – something you continuously do, not just when you need
  • To only network with those in higher positions: she advised students to never underestimate the importance of networking laterally, with classmates and coworkers for example, and even to try “networking down”.

Alex further emphasized that the end results of networking are sometimes unpredictable, but always useful.

The second speaker was Rebecca Kallsen, managing partner of Kallsen + Stennett Communications. Rebecca coached the students on “how to create a kick-ass personal brand”, focusing on digital marketing as the foundation of a professional brand. She advised the students to clean up their social media footprint because employers will be thorough in their search to assess professionalism.

Dustin Manley, marketing and communications manager at Designed UX, spoke next and educated students on how to approach new contacts at a networking event. His discussion was aimed at how even introverts can become networking pros. His advice for starting conversations at networking events is to search for groups of three or more, or someone standing alone, and introduce yourself with a quick elevator pitch that states your credentials and what it is that you do. Dustin later tweeted the main message he coined for this advice: “If it’s 1 or 3+ you’re in the clear! If it’s a pair, beware.”

The latter portion of the event included a networking session where students had the chance to perfect their elevator pitch and get networking tips from industry professionals with some one-on-one mentoring.

(Photo by Heather Francey)