Even as a sophomore in college, I’ve already had “The Talk.”
In fact, most college students have. Moms, dads, teachers, professors, aunts, uncles and that neighbor down the street you speak with briefly every time you come home for break have all cornered us at some point or another and have begun “The Talk.” We attempt to maintain our polite yet strained smile, all while looking for possible escape routes.
Because there is nothing more stressful or terror-inducing than “The Talk” — that is, the talk about what you plan to do after college. Much of our high school and college careers are spent in the pursuit of a well-rounded resume that will make us attractive to potential employers.
But it’s no longer enough to have impressive credentials. You could be the smartest individual at your university and boast the most impressive resume, but if you don’t know how to brand yourself, you’re out of luck.
That’s where social media comes in. The various social media sites offered to us today are invaluable resources that allow us to create an online presence and act as an avenue to future career opportunities.
However, it is for this reason that social media has proven to be a double-edged sword in the context of finding careers. Because yes — social media is a resource that allows you to brand yourself and connect with potential employers. But it’s also the reason that we need to go that extra mile in the first place.
Gone are the days of simple paper resumes. In their place is the age of paper resumes and online portfolios and LinkedIn profiles and witty Twitter profiles and about.me pages and…
The list goes on and on.
Will businesses use social media to find and hire recent college graduates? I think they already have. We’re living in the era where social media is reigning supreme and we’ve just begun to truly tap into all that it can offer us.
So if you’re a recent college graduate or a savvy college student, here are a few ways I think that you can use social media to your advantage in your job search:
1. LinkedIn: Okay, so this one’s a little obvious. But that doesn’t make it any less powerful. LinkedIn is the go-to site for any employer looking to hire a fresh talent for their latest job opening.
For this reason, it’s important to create a LinkedIn profile and keep it updated. In fact, even if you’re a first-year in college, I’d recommend going ahead and creating a profile. Pick our your most professional head-shot (or go out and get one made), slap down a few of your accomplishments and previous job titles and call it a day. You don’t have to have everything done right away, but the faster you start, the faster you can attract potential employers or connections. A renowned Raleigh Orthodontics practice has used LinkedIn to get some of its best employees.
But there are a few things to remember about LinkedIn:
- Keep it professional. I know this sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at some of the stuff people feel the need to post on the site.
- Forget all the high school stuff. Granted, if you’re a first or second-year in college, this will be less realistic — but as a rule, try and refrain from using your position as secretary of the Juniorettes or your babysitting experience (unless it’s something that you still do today!).
- Only connect with people you know. Those new to LinkedIn may not be aware the etiquette, but it is a little taboo to connect with people that you’ve never met before. After all, when you “connect” with someone on the site, it’s a form of recommendation. Would you really want to attach your name to someone that you’ve never met? Probably not. So don’t expect others to it either.
- You can make your LinkedIn profile longer than your paper resume. Many different professors and professionals have told me that one of the easiest ways to lose a job is to lose an employer’s interest. In order to keep them focused, you should trim down your paper resume to one page. However, you don’t have to do this on your LinkedIn page. So if you have something that you couldn’t fit on your paper resume, go ahead and add it on LinkedIn.
2. Personal Portfolios/Websites: I personally do not have a website or portfolio, but I have been told that they are a good addition to add to your social media presence. You can link to your Twitter, blog, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or any other site that strikes your fancy.
A perfect example of a personal portfolio is one that my friend Lauren Kostenberger has created. As a public relations student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, it is imperative for her to provide samples of her work to potential employers — and her portfolio creates the perfect place for her to synthesize all of her work and social media sites.
3. about.me: This site is a little like a combination of LinkedIn and a personal portfolio. It creates a “home base” of sorts for all of your social media sites, allowing you to link to your other accounts. You post a picture of yourself (make sure it’s HD), a quick blurb about your accomplishments and what field you’re hoping to enter into, and then you wait. You can get tons of views without lifting a finger. Others are drawn to your site based on shared personal interests, a shared hometown or a shared career field.
A friend of mine told me that she was told being interviewed for a job the interviewer mentioned that they were beginning to use about.me to find new people to hire almost as much as they were using LinkedIn. Now, this may not be the case for every company, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to go ahead and create an account. You never know what you could get out of it.
4. Blogs: I was required to create a blog for a class this semester and let me tell you, it has been one of the most helpful assignments that I have ever been given in my life. I now have a collection of work that I can point to whenever a potential employer asks if I write.
The professor that assigned the blog told us that he had a student a few years ago who was being interviewed for a position at an online magazine. When the interviewer asked if she could send him her writing samples when she got home, she replied that she could pull up her blog for him right then and there. A few days later, she got the job. Her boss later told her that the biggest reason for her getting the position was that he was so impressed that she had created and kept up with a blog, and was the only candidate who had been able to provide her writing samples on the spot.
At first, it may be slightly daunting to share your thoughts with the rest of the Internet. I suggest getting a few posts under your belt and then sharing them on your Twitter and Facebook profiles. You’ll get more views this way, and you’ll also get a boost of confidence when you see your friends and family commenting. Trust me. Your mom and dad will ALWAYS read your blog.
Side note: If you’re planning on sharing your blog, keep it clean. Like I said before, your parents will be reading this. Besides, you don’t want to turn off a potential employer with excessive profanity.
5. Twitter: It’s amazing how much you can do with 140 characters. When you open up your Twitter to the public, you’re opening yourself up to many different opportunities.
Did you write an article for your college newspaper? Post the link on Twitter. Attending a talk led by a prominent researcher or historian? Live tweet it. Want to reach out to a public figure? Pull yourself together and write a clear and concise tweet and send it their way.
On my account, I always link the articles that I write for my college newspaper and my personal blog posts. It may only get me three extra views, but that’s three views I didn’t have before. And if one of those views happens to be from a woman looking to hire for her public relations firm and she likes my writing style, then taking those five seconds to post the link were totally worth it.
But like I’ve mentioned before, remember to keep your Twitter posts professional if you’re planning on keeping it public. Earlier this year I was told about a girl who had recently graduated from UNC who published a tweet about something along the lines of wanting to go to a prominent university in California because of how easy it was to get in or how easy it was to find a rich husband there. Guess who saw and responded to the tweet? The university.
I know that your Twitter account is your own, but please be mindful of how you present yourself through your tweets. In fact, this goes for any social media site. It’s important to remember that writing a post may take only a few minutes, but it stays on the Internet forever. Make sure it makes you look good.
So when businesses — especially as newspapers or magazines — are looking to recruit new writers, social media is the perfect place to start. They should check out the blogs and Twitter profiles of college students or recent graduates. They’ll want to look for someone with talent, a distinct voice, a dedication to the medium that they’ve selected, and the knowledge to keep their accounts professional.
Social media is a powerful tool. Make sure you use it correctly.