Networking Best Practices
Whether you’re a student stressing out about finding a job or an alumnus with an established career, networking is relevant to everyone. Even if you’re not searching for a job, you never know what industry insights you can obtain, or relationships you can build through networking. We sat down with two Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations alumni, Matt Comstock and Blake Balser, and asked them about their networking pet peeves, experiences and best practices.
What is your current career?
Matt: Currently, I work at Camelot Strategic Marketing & Media with a focus on digital. Camelot is a privately held agency in Dallas focused on marketing strategy, media planning and execution. I graduated with a B.S. Advertising from the University of Texas/Austin and have been in the business ever since.
Blake: I am a Brand Manager at The Richards Group.
Did you network to get the job you have today?
Matt: Of course! Prior to joining Camelot, I led a sales team at Yahoo!. Camelot was our number one partner in many respects: the best strategy, a bias toward innovation, their partnership mindset and a customer-first approach. Over the years, the working relationships became personal friendships which eventually opened the door for me to join the Camelot team.
Blake: Yes. I networked heavily.
What is your networking best practice?
Matt: Networking is a process of expanding your circle of contacts and influence. You should nurture your network every day. Connect to new people through social channels. Forward industry articles/insights/updates to people who could benefit from the information. Endorse connections on LinkedIn for their skills (they just might reciprocate). Reach out to someone you have not heard from in a while. Keep your current experience updated. Be active. Five minutes a day adds up over time.
Blake: Proactivity and persistence are my networking philosophies. My networking best practice is to always follow up with potential leads and to make personal connections with them. Even if you don’t get the job or if you take a different position, it’s important to maintain these relationships for the future and to never burn bridges.
What is the most common mistake you see college students make in their career search?
Matt: Starting the process too late and being too timid in the approach. It is a competitive world and those who are bold, focused and have relevant experience will stand out. The minute you commit to advertising, marketing or public relations as your area of study, you should begin building your network. Start by connecting with professors, college alumni in the workforce and even friends of your parents that are in the industry. Review job postings and look at the experience companies are looking for in new hires. Notice buzz words and include those in your work experience. Always research companies you are interviewing with before the meeting. Practice answering questions in mock interviews. In other words – be ready, as the call or interview can come at any time.
Blake: The most common mistake I see college students make in their career search is just blindly applying to positions without following up with recruiters or making connections with people at the company they’re applying to. In order to stand out in a stack of resumes, it gives students a huge leg up on the competition if recruiters can match their face to their resume. It’s the extra bit of initiative and proactivity that can make you stand out when applying places, and the majority of students I see applying to jobs just simply apply and wait to hear back without any correspondence with the recruiter.
What’s the best example of networking you’ve seen?
Matt: I was having dinner with a colleague of mine who runs a sales team. He is also a UT alumnus. He confided to me that whenever he is hiring for an entry-level position, the first call is to Lisa Dobias for her recommendation. And he has hired people after one phone call with the candidate. Her opinion matters that much. Leveraged correctly, your network can move you to the top of the list of a hiring manager, or better yet, eliminate all other names but yours from the list.
Blake: The best example of networking I’ve seen was when my friend, who was a recruiter at GSD&M, leveraged her UT alumni network and connected with an alumnus who worked at Droga5. A few months and trips to New York later, she was working as a recruiter at Droga5.
How do you suggest a current student approach the career search and networking?
Matt: Start with asking yourself some basic questions. For instance “where do I want to live? What areas within the advertising industry are interesting to me (search, creative, mobile, video, social media, etc)? What type of work environment is the best fit personally/professionally – small startup, global corporation or mid-sized established brand?
Articulate your personal vision. It can be as specific as “my dream job would be to develop social media content for a Colorado company led by executives who value sustainability.” Life’s too short to work somewhere that is not aligned with your values or doesn’t inspire you. Self-evaluation can direct your efforts and energy in an extremely productive way.
Blake: To current students, I would suggest they approach the career search with a discerning eye for what it is they want to do. Once a student hones in on the career they want to pursue and the place or places they want to work, they can focus on getting their foot in the door at one of these places. Once students decide where they want to work, they should be persistent and do whatever it takes to get an interview and subsequently an internship and/or job.
What is your biggest networking pet peeve?
Matt: When I introduce a student to a contact and they don’t follow up in a timely manner. Look at this from my point of view. I am asking a colleague to devote their time as a favor. Plus, I am leveraging personal capital by making the connection. This is, in effect, my endorsement. There have been times when the student simply did not follow up to continue the dialogue. That is an ender.
Blake: My biggest networking pet peeve is when upperclassmen in college don’t have a plan for their career. Students should always have a plan that they can articulate in networking situations.