It’s All About Who You Know
By: Merryn Ruthling
In the public relations industry, it’s true what they say: it’s all about who you know. Relationships are the foundation for every aspect of public relations, whether it’s building media relations, earning media hits or landing a spot at a leading public relations agency.
So how can you go about building your network? One of the best ways is to conduct informational interviews.
According to the University of Georgia Career Center, an informational interview is an opportunity to spend time with a professional in a career field of interest. Informational interviews can be done over coffee or Zoom, and they are a great opportunity to learn what a company or job position is really like.
Informational interviews are not formal interviews, but rather conversations where you can tap into the hidden job market and learn unpublished details about a specific company, organization or school.
As a senior public relations student, I can confidently say that building my network and conducting informational interviews has been one of the most influential factors for getting internships and being successful during my time at Grady. In fact, informational interviews are one of the best ways to land a job. While one out of every 200 resumes results in a job offer, one out of every 12 informational interviews results in a job offer.
Additionally, these conversations can help you learn what industry, job or even location is right for you. In my experience, Grady students frequently hear about the difference between working in house for an organization or working with many clients at an agency. Speaking with professionals from executives at companies like FedEx and Delta Air Lines to Account Directors at agencies like Jackson Spalding and Weber Shandwick really helped me determine what lifestyle and work culture best fit my interests and strengths.
While all of this sounds great, jumping in and setting up informational interviews can be a little intimidating at first. Here are some good steps to start building your network and setting up informational interviews:
- Follow up with PRSSA speakers. PRSSA members are privileged enough to get to hear from speakers from Fortune 500 companies and leading global public relations agencies. Take advantage of these connections and request an informational interview on LinkedIn.
- Use the LinkedIn alumni tool. This tool allows you to filter alumni of your university by location, company, industry, and more. To find UGA alumni, search for UGA’s LinkedIn profile and select “Alumni” from the menu in the left margin, or go to linkedin.com/school/universityof-georgia/people.
- Get a mentor. Use the UGA Mentor Program to search for a mentor that will guide you through the job application process. Searching for mentors by company, industry, or area is a great way to make a connection at a company and learn about what it is really like to work there.
- Reach out to parents and family friends. Fun fact: your network includes your family too! Reaching out to family members for connections is an easy way to meet professionals.
- Attend ADPR Connection or Career Fairs. Attend ADPR connection to meet with professionals from a variety of companies looking for Grady students. Follow up with the employers and recruiters that you meet via email or LinkedIn.
After you reach out to a professional, it is important to respect the time and energy that they are dedicating to speak with you. Best practices include responding to emails quickly, being flexible with the time and date of the meeting, conducting background information on LinkedIn and coming prepared with a list of questions to ask.
Last but not least, it is crucial to follow up. Once you have completed an informational interview, send a follow up email thanking them for their time. Be sure to send updates throughout the job application process and throughout your career in order to keep them in your network.
For a list of best practices and sample informational interview questions, visit the University of Georgia Career Guide, or make an appointment with a Grady Career Consultant.
Don’t forget PRSSA Membership closes on November 1st! Make sure to pay your dues and fill out the membership form by then to attend our next meeting (Nov. 2nd) with Kevin Schatell from the Today Show!