Let's Bring Back the Enthusiasm in Professional Networks

This is my last year as an undergraduate at the University of Houston, which means it’s also my last year in the Public Relations Student Society of America, Student Government Association and other student activities.

I can’t wait to join the professional world. I’m excited to move up to the parent organizations and start my career.

Not all students are like me. I know the retention rate for graduates in PRSSA who join the professional Society- the Public Relations Society of America– could be higher. So I asked myself, why aren’t students joining the professional Society?

PRSSA PRSA networking

I strongly believe that one of the reasons students don’t connect to the next step is lack of excitement. When you go to a student conference or networking event, enthusiasm is all around you. Everyone is on the same level, eager and anticipating the future. Students aren’t locked into a career and might not be completely confident in themselves yet, so finding a group of peers who are learning alongside you can ease some of the apprehension. That eagerness drives the excitement of these events. Everyone wants a place to belong, especially when you’re figuring out yourself and your career.

I’m not saying professional events aren’t exciting. I enjoy most of the ones I attend. But overall, these networks work so hard to produce a sophisticated tone that I wonder sometimes if the excitement factor is forgotten.

Think about it: How many people watched this video of the Google I/O when they jumped out of the plane with the Google glasses on?

Of course, we’re talking about Google here, but they created excitement and the people who attended knew to expect it.

PRSA does a great job with the PRSA International Conference every year and it even occurs at the same time and same city as our student Conference. This gives students the opportunity to start creating relationships with professionals. The reason we even have a student organization is because there were some passionate professionals back in 1967 at the PRSA Assembly in Philly that voted to establish one. Now there is even a New Professionals section to help with the transition period.

So here’s the issue: the disconnect. Students aren’t seeing reasons to join networks once they enter the workforce full-time. I want to know if we can actively eliminate the reasons for this.

  • Are they intimidated?
  • Is there a disconnect between value and time as a professional?
  • Are students only interested in student organizations to get them to their job and nothing more?
  • Why don’t students see the excitement that is there?

The message about the advantages of pursuing a membership beyond the student level needs to be pushed. As students, we don’t think in terms of budget and stock shares. (Unless you’re studying finance.) Sometimes we just run with our exciting ideas and don’t identify the end result in the same way our future boss might.

These are the real world challenges that can take out that initial excitement. As students, we don’t typically know how much a year our company would be spending on press releases or memos. Granted most of them are digital now; where does the cost lie then? In the computers?

This was a point brought up by Mark Stouse at a PRSA Houston luncheon. Although to me, sales velocity was a boring term, it’s a term that produces results. It doesn’t have to be boring.

This is why it’s so important to really dig into a career you’re passionate about. It shouldn’t be something that will work for a few years– it should be something you want to really influence and in turn, influence you.

I hope that for years to come I can be part of building the future in the organizations I’m involved in and improving it for students and professionals alike.

What is your opinion about the reason students aren’t joining professional networks?

_______________________________
Picture courtesy of Demo Lesson blog. 

Find out why I’m so passionate about PRSSA here.

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