Cast Your Net and Get to Work

Emily Mitchell, account coordinator

Let me set the scene; a Midwest girl graduating from college in three months, applying for her first, full-time job in a state she has never even visited, in a city she had only heard of in history books. Hi, my name is Emily Mitchell and I am that Midwest girl. As crazy as it sounds, I was moving to Richmond from the Chicagoland area to start fresh in a new city leaving behind every networking opportunity and connection I had made in the last 21 years. While I did not know a single soul in the entire state of Virginia, let alone Richmond, I knew it was time for me to get to work – if I was going to make this move work.

So how did I go from being an average Communication Studies graduate to interning at a Fortune 500 company, to being hired at a growing public relations firm? I buckled down and did whatever it took to give myself an edge when building an entirely new network, and here’s how I did it:

Research. Google and LinkedIn became my sidekicks. I researched anything and everything about communications, marketing and public relations related companies around the Richmond area and began making lists of people and places to connect with. My biggest research tool quickly became the PRSA Richmond website and I began planting my seeds.

 Be vulnerable. No one ever wants to ask for help but desperate times call for desperate measures. Back to the PRSA Richmond website, I drafted an email explaining my situation and started emailing board members asking for advice, recommendations, and the chance to meet for coffee. I emailed complete strangers just for my name to be seen and I had to let down every wall stopping me to do so.

 Listen. Of the dozens of emails I sent asking for help, there were little to no replies or just outright declines, but I had finally received a “Yes” and I had my ticket in. Each email had a different response but each had something to say and that is what I learned from. I listened to the responses, I listened to the words used in the email, I listened to how the response was written all to use when moving forward and work toward the results I was looking for.

 Follow through. I had received a reply to schedule a coffee meeting whenever I did make a visit to RVA and it was time to act upon the offer. If I was going to be successful transitioning into an already well-connected field, I had to mean what I say and follow through on any agreements. This phase was difficult as it required detailed planning and constant communication, but my motivation was there and it was time to plan a trip to Virginia.

 Say, “Thank You.” If I have learned anything from this process, it is that a simple, “Thank you” can go a long way. Others were taking the time out of their busy schedules to reply to my emails or offer resources to help me, the least I could do was express my gratitude with a hand-written “Thank you” card. Networking is relationship building, so start a new relationship out on a good foot and be thankful for all the help along the way.

Quick tip! Once a connection is made and a relationship is forming, keep up with that connection. Send a message on LinkedIn when you see something exciting has happened and always make an effort to say hello in person.

Now after living in Richmond for just over 17 months, I have continued to grow my network by becoming a member of PRSA Richmond, attending monthly networking luncheons, socializing at after work events and continuing to reach out to potential contacts just as I did back at school. The biggest takeaways I can provide are: never be afraid to take big risks, never settle especially when it comes to your dreams and never give up.