A huge part of the public relations industry is giving back.
Ever since the onset of the pandemic and the tumultuous year and a half since then, students studying public relations and communications have faced the bleakest job market since the Great Recession of 2008.
In response to this, many organizations and professionals have stepped up to assist the next generation of public relations and communications professionals to get their foot in the door and launch their careers.
One of these is Net Net Synergy, a website full of free resources, job postings and an extensive list of mentors ready to assist public relations students and new public relations pros. It was started by Matt Prince, a PRSSA alum, former PRSA Chapter president and currently the senior manager of public relations and brand experience at Taco Bell.
I recently connected with Prince over Zoom to further explore the story of Net Net Synergy, along with some of his future goals for the platform. Our conversation started on the topic of Prince’s journey, which coincidentally draws some parallels to public relations students of today:
“The challenges that I had in 2007 going into the recession were very different than the challenges [students] are facing now,” said Prince. “These challenges (both the ones I experienced in 2007 and those students face today) are what inspired me to start Net Net Synergy.”
Prince, the Faculty Adviser for California State University, Fullerton, PRSSA, is no stranger to mentorship: He regularly chats with students looking to enter the field and throughout these conversations a common trend he found among students was a sense of anxiety about the job market.
At the same time, Prince had multiple professionals in his network reach out asking if he knew of any students that would be a good fit for their internships. “I was like, ‘there are jobs available and there are talented people looking for jobs, there’s gotta be a better way of connecting the two,’” said Prince.
So the nexus of Net Net Synergy was connecting job seekers with employers; but Prince didn’t want to stop there. He also decided to build a list of mentors to feature on the site.
“I put a call out for virtual mentors … and I think within a little over 24 hours I had about 120 mentors sign up. That showed me there’s a clear desire from veterans in the industry to give back, which is amazing.”
Prince relates this to his professional journey, which in a sense has been driven by networking.
“If I look back at my professional journey, it was all really based off of networking and personal relationships,” said Prince, citing that throughout his career he has been recruited from a job that he loves to a job that he loves even more purely through connections in his network.
Something that really spoke to me in our conversation was Prince’s view on mentorships, which is not always as clear as some make it out to be.
“Mentors take a bunch of different shapes,” said Prince. “There can be mentorships that are prepared and matched, like a matchmaker. Sometimes those work and sometimes those don’t.
“I had a group of mentors that didn’t know they were my mentors. I watched what they did and observed how they worked and soaked that up. I then adopted those practices into my management style. For me, that was a form of mentorship.”
Prince noted that everyone’s mentorship journey will be different; and mentors come from all areas of our life. He hopes that Net Net Synergy can provide a platform for people to approach mentorships in a style that suits them.
Another area of Net Net Synergy that drew my attention was the Resources tab. This was most likely because it gave me a professional excuse to mindlessly scroll through “Career Development” TikTok. I prodded Prince about his choices to include both new and traditional resources for students and young pros to use.
“The Resources is the biggest opportunity to grow on the site,” Prince said, noting that he wanted to particularly cater these to what Gen Z is looking for.
Circling back to my main point of fascination in regard to Resources, Prince acknowledges that TikTok is a major platform for Gen Z and that it’s a great way to get information out quickly in bite-size portions. “There are some really great content creators that are putting out really great and insightful information on the platform,” he said.
The Resources tab also includes more traditional items like links to podcasts, book recommendations, newsletters and templates for resumes and cover letters. Prince also re-iterated that a lot of the mentors on the platform are open to reviewing student resumes.
So what drives Prince to continue building out this platform? For him, it’s being a reflection of his own career journey, driven by networking and connections. “My goal is to be everyone’s ‘I know a guy/girl’ list.” Prince also cited the importance of strong and authentic relationships, comparing it to taking care of a garden with each plant (or connection) having its own specific needs.
Something Prince hopes to do as he continues building out Net Net Synergy is to get feedback and suggestions from Gen Z students and professionals. Progressions readers can use this exclusive link to send suggestions for future Net Net Synergy improvements. And if you haven’t already done so, check out the website itself for access to mentors, resources and job postings in the field of public relations and communications.
Zach Ferenchak, 2020–2021 vice president of brand engagement, is a senior at Capital University, a private university in Columbus, Ohio. He is majoring in emerging media with an emphasis in public relations and minors in journalism and marketing. In his free time, Ferenchak can be found obsessing over the latest gadget or video game, exploring a coffee shop with friends, or going on a trail run. He hopes to elevate the voices of all PRSSA members through the organization’s various brand platforms. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.