As public relations and communications professionals, we’re no strangers to speaking with new people. Whether it’s clients, reporters or influencers – we are constantly networking.

However, when was the last time you networked outside of the usual “people you kind of already know?” I’m talking about walking into a room and not knowing anyone. Does the thought alone make your hands sweat? If so, you aren’t alone! In fact, one in four professionals admit they don’t network at all. But let’s change that.

Networking is a vital skill for PR and communications professionals. I’m a firm believer in stepping out of your comfort zone and the minute you do – you’ll see growth. Here are four reasons why you need to find a networking event ASAP and sharpen your skills.

Job opportunities.
It may be hard to believe, but most millennials actually love to network, as there can be hundreds of job opportunities that come from it. According to Virgin Wireless, 85 percent of positions are filled through networking alone. So, if you’re unemployed or unhappy in your current position, explore various networking opportunities. You never know what they may turn into!

Helpful tip: As a recent college grad, I found my success in networking after collecting business cards and emailing those who I met the next day. It shows your connections that you are serious and interested in the conversation. With this process, you’re guaranteed to make an impression. Plus, it allows you to stick out of the crowd. Not everyone, nor even half will email their new connections the next day! 

Gaining new ideas.
It’s common for mid-level employees and professionals to enjoy networking, but the end result can sometimes look different. Instead of seeking job opportunities, they like to connect to share ideas and gain new insight. For example, you may be having a difficult time reaching an audience in a thought-provoking way. However, if we are networking with other like-minded professionals, your connections may have insight on how to better reach the audience in question. 

Meeting professionals who have the same challenges but are willing to share their solutions is a great form of encouragement. Learn to rely on your network when things get tough. Sharing information is a key role in communications careers, and I challenge you to share ideas at your next networking opportunity. 

Finding new business opportunities.
Networking can also bring upon fresh business opportunities in places you might not expect. Typically, this is where the big bang on ROI kicks in. People you meet networking can often help you to identify new market opportunities you might not have thought of previously.

For example, are you a freelancer wanting to tap into the nonprofit market? Research nonprofit networking events near you and make those connections.

Finding the right mentors.
When I was in college, I was grateful enough to be placed with a professional mentor and I truly believe through that professional relationship, I was taught valuable skills. I was able to make more connections, gain real-world knowledge and have a professional reference at hand if I ever needed it.

You’re never too young or too old for a professional mentor. The key is to find someone who can teach you and advise when things get tough. I recommend finding someone in a position higher than yours, as they often have already navigated those rough waters and paved the way.

Already have a mentor? Consider becoming one yourself. While at networking events, connect with younger professionals or students. Not only will they be thrilled to learn from someone with more experience, but those relationships can even grow into life-long friendships.

Networking is vital in our profession, and you should treat it as such. Research local groups in your area for networking opportunities. A good place to start are chambers of commerce, professional associations and more.

A few of my local Indy favorites are below!

Grab your professional blazer and practice your handshake, because you are officially ready to network!

Want to professionally network with our Dittoe PR staff? We meet with local students and professionals often to grab coffee and chat about opportunities. Check out our team page – we’d love to hear from you!