On April 16th PRSSA held a “PRopel your Career” Networking Night in Montante Cultural Center at Canisius College. Experts in attendance held positions in public relations, advertising, marketing, entrepreneurship, and business management. The night opened with casual snacks and drinks, then Bill Collins, formerly of Travers-Collins and now Vice President for Advancement at Canisius, and Christian Frese, a young professional who founded and marketed his own successful lawn business, shared their experiences. This was a great mixture of professionals because Mr. Collins has had a long, successful career in PR, and Christian Frese is a young entrepreneur, so both ends of the professional spectrum were covered.

Christian structured his presentation around tips he thought would be useful to college students soon to be entering the professional world. He spoke about commitment and the importance of “showing up” (physically, mentally, and emotionally), which seemed to really resonate with me. It was a different perspective on the same old “Tips for After College” speech. His openness and humility were noble as he spoke of reaching out to others for help and to recognize others’ strengths where you hold your own weaknesses. It was refreshing to hear from Christian, who I saw as a very person-oriented leader.

The last part of the night was a “speed networking” portion, where students spoke with about eight professionals during 10-minute rotation periods. I was truly inspired, and a new fire was lit within me after speaking with Ken, the District Executive for the Boy Scouts of America. His main job is to meet with potential donors and discuss sponsorship requests.  The way he spoke of his first $10,000 donation was incredible to hear about. I haven’t seen someone filled with so much excitement and purpose in a long time. He opened up a whole new world for me – fundraising. We talked about various commonalities we shared, and he was more than willing to help me find an internship or shadowing opportunity within the fundraising/not-for-profit sector. This conversation alone made attending this networking event worthwhile.

I was able to have personal, one-on-one conversations with three more professionals. Eileen Herbert, the Director of Public Relations at Canisius sparked an interest for public relations in me, and extended her help in setting up shadowing opportunities for media releases at Canisius. Also, I was able to talk more in depth with Christian, who offered insight on following your passion and focusing on building relationships with each and every person you encounter. Lastly, I spoke with an employee from Rich Products who works primarily on internal communications. One interesting suggestion he brought up was volunteering at charitable events such as galas to get a “behind the scenes” look at event planning. Simply working a registration table would create the perfect environment to nonchalantly network, get to know people, and ask questions. He also spoke very highly of the book written by TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie, “Start Something that Matters”, which I can’t wait to read (check it out on Amazon here!). Such a simple bit of information like this got me excited to learn more about leadership and the professional not-for-profit world.

I was amazed at the willingness to help these professionals put forward. I truly felt I developed a relationship with the individuals with whom I had personal conversations, and I feel comfortable reaching out to them for more insights, tricks, and tips. Networking events should be taken advantage of as an opportunity to build a professional network. No matter the field of interest, professionals can offer a different, more experienced view on various topics that prove to be valuable.