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Meet my friend Paige Landsem. We met as housemates my junior year (her freshman year) of college and we were also both journalism and PR majors. She is now a senior and Firm Director of AHPR.

She will graduate this June and I am so proud of how she has truly made the most of her time in college. She has worked for AHPR and a local agency in Eugene during the school year and scored incredible internships during the summer. If you want to know how to be successful in college, look to Paige.

We were skyping recently when the topic of networking came up and we were discussing how surprised we are that more people don’t do it. She has a lot of experience networking and here she shares her tips.

Watch out world, this girl’s going places!
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1) Don’t be afraid to reach out or ask for a connection.

If you consistently contribute good work at your internship, it’s likely your bosses and colleagues will be willing to vouch for you in professional settings down the road. However, they can’t read your mind. If there’s someone you want to talk to, be proactive! Ask them directly if it’s appropriate, or ask a boss or colleague who knows them better to introduce you.

This worked to my advantage two summers ago, I interned with Rodale, Inc. in New York City. While my internship was not sports-focused, I learned my boss’s boss’s boss (seems obscure, I know) once worked in Sports Illustrated’s public relations department. I expressed an interest in sports PR, so my boss arranged a meeting with her. We met for coffee, I told her about my passion for sports, and she was gracious enough to connect me with an old colleague at SI. Out of that meeting, I later secured my internship for the next summer at Sports Illustrated.

Don’t bombard everyone you know for new connections, but if there is a specific person from whose knowledge you could stand to gain, respectfully ask if you might be able to meet.

 2) Always follow up – and stay in touch.

Everyone wants to stay in touch with their old bosses and colleagues: Hopefully, you developed a friendship and want them in your corner when it comes to the job search. My challenge is always finding a reason to email my professional connections; it can be hard to stay in touch when you feel there’s nothing to say beyond, “How’s it going?”

If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll find several meaningful opportunities to get back in touch. You might read an article about the company or a client, and can email your boss to see if she helped secure that coverage. You might see on Twitter that a colleague has taken a new position, and can tweet congratulations on the new gig. Even a birthday, wedding, or arrival of a new baby can be an opportunity to drop a line.

Obviously, don’t wish your boss a happy birthday in one paragraph and beg for a job in the next. But, actively look for ways to stay in touch because it’s easier to ask a favor if the last time you talked was three months ago, not three years.

 3) Practice your elevator pitch.

There is no lack of opportunities to sell yourself, especially when you’re at a conference and meeting lots of new people. Every introduction will begin with your name, school or work affiliation, and a brief description of what you do.

Everyone is familiar with the concept of an “elevator pitch” – a short and sweet description of who you are and what you do. Seems easy enough, right? I’ve found that, as easy as it is for me to talk at length about the work I’ve done in school and at internships, it can be difficult to condense and articulate that information.

If you’re going to a conference or networking event, think about the type of people you’re liable to meet. When I went to the Sloan conference, I knew there would be a lot of sports analytics professionals who would be more interested in my work as a social media intern for Baseball Prospectus than they would my work as Firm Director of our student-run public relations firm. Of course, I’d still mention AHPR if the conversation went that direction, but if I only had a few seconds, I wanted to capitalize right away on the strongest possible connection. Think about a few variations of your elevator pitch and practice them regularly; new connections could come from anywhere, not just an organized networking event.

 4) Make business cards.

In March, I attended the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, a meeting of sports business and media professionals. One of the best moves I made before the conference was ordering personal business cards from Vistaprint. It was a little tricky because I wasn’t sure what to put as my “affiliation.” Obviously, I couldn’t use a logo I didn’t have rights to (like the Oregon “O”), and I was wary of using our student-run agency’s logo because I wanted to convey I was a student interested in public relations, sports and social media; using the AHPR logo might have limited my ability to express those other sides of my work.

In the end, the cards said I was a “Journalism and Public Relations Student at the University of Oregon” and included my email address, phone number and links to my LinkedIn page, Twitter profile and blog.

If you aren’t an active blogger or Twitter user, don’t include those links. You don’t want a new connection to see inappropriate tweets or a blog that hasn’t been updated in four months. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, I would recommend creating one right away and including the link, even if you don’t have many connections. In my experience, professionals are more willing to connect on LinkedIn than follow you on Twitter.

Even though I felt a little silly handing out cards with no professional affiliation, they paid off: At the conference, I met a marketing professional for a Major League Baseball team who added me on LinkedIn the day after we met (and said it was smart to include that URL.)

Those are my top tips for networking, but I’m always open to learning more! If you have questions or any other tips, share in the comments section.

You can find Paige on LinkedIn, Twitter and on her blog.