Recent grads know how to use social media for personal matters—to chat with friends, to find information, and to coordinate events—but not when it comes to using online networks to find a job.
They just don’t know where to start, and no one at their respective academic institutions is helping them. So here are four ways to use social media to find that first job. (Keep in mind, social media should not be the primary way to find a job—simply a set of tools.)
Establish a digital home base.
For many, this is going to be LinkedIn. For a much smaller number of students/grads, this could be a blog. Let’s start with LinkedIn, as that’s the “home base” for the lion’s share of grads. What’s interesting is the amount of recent grads with no LinkedIn profile at all. If you fall in that camp, change that ASAP.
LinkedIn is often the first place hiring managers and HR reps will look for information about you. When they look and find nothing (or an incomplete profile), what do you think that says about you? A complete, optimized LinkedIn profile is table stakes in today’s job search environment. Students don’t have a lot of job experience to list, but that’s no excuse. List jobs you had in college (both relevant to PR, and those that don’t seem to be). List professional organizations you’re a part of (PRSA, etc.). Include widgets for your blog and Slideshare (for presentations you may have given in school or as part of PRSA, etc.). Be sure to have a short, punchy summary, and share stories/links on LinkedIn regularly—it proves you’re an “active participant” on the social network. Employers like active participants.
Bonus points: Ask a couple of your favorite professors—and maybe even a student leader or two—to write you a recommendation. Very few recent grads have online recommendations, given their lack of professional experience, so this is a nice way to distinguish yourself from the competition.
Start a blog today.
One of the refrains I hear from college students is: “I’d like to start a blog, and know it’s important, but would I blog about?” My response: Anything. Blog about PR. Blog about cookies. Blog about running.
Start blogging now. Why? For several reasons:
1. It’ll hone your writing skills. Blogging two or three times a week will help you become a better writer—a key skill among younger pros.
2. It’ll also help you refine your creative process (coming up with two or three posts a week isn’t easy). The longer you blog, the more it shows deep commitment. (Keeping a blog running also isn’t easy.)
3. It’ll also give you a great tool to use during the interview. What better way to showcase your writing than to show the potential employers samples from your blog? You could even write posts about the potential employer prior to your interview that you could showcase in the interview (5 reasons COMPANY X is doing a great job with PR). I mean, what employer wouldn’t love that in an interview?
The big X factor here is differentiation. How many recent grads have longstanding blogs? I’m guessing not many. One in 10 maybe? Be among the elite 10 percent. Increase your hiring odds. Start a blog.
Use Twitter to network and show your personality.
I often tell students that if I were 22, I would be thrilled with the current environment. Why? Because tools like Twitter have completely flattened the playing field and put me on the same level with my peers.
With Twitter, you now have access to CEOs of agencies, HR specialists at Fortune 500 companies, and other employees who might work for the employer you’re targeting. That simply didn’t exist when I graduated. I had little idea who many of those people were.
Now, you can talk to them in real-time online whenever you’d like. Now, I’ll grant you, getting their attention can be a challenge, but the opportunity is there. Grab it.
Start Twitter lists of agencies you’re targeting in your job search. Start another list for employees who work at that agency (cross-reference with LinkedIn, and use Google to find Twitter accounts). Start yet more lists to find recruiters at companies/agencies you’re targeting; you can also follow #happo for job referrals every day on Twitter. Twitter is the ultimate door-opener—use it to meet colleagues before the interview, as a precursor to coffee meet-ups, and as a way to get to know others in the PR industry.
Use social media to build a real network.
It’s great to have 10,000 followers on Twitter, but do you know what’s better? To have a network of people in your local community willing to help you at a moment’s notice. Ask my friend Heather Cmiel, who recently relied on her network to help her get a gig at Bellmont Partners PR.
Use social tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and your blog to grow that “in person” network? How? By using Twitter and LinkedIn as door openers to coffees—where you can really connect with people.
Remember, you’re most likely going to find that first job (and subsequent jobs) via your in-person network—those people you’ve met face to face, who know your full name, who know a bit about your experience, who believe in you. That kind of depth can’t be cultivated on Twitter or LinkedIn alone, but you can use those tools to have people meet you in person, so you can nurture that kind of relationship.
Remember, once you do get a few coffee meet-ups, don’t treat them lightly. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Twitter/LinkedIn are door-openers. The coffee meet-up is an entrée, and it’s up to you to close the deal.
Arik Hanson is principal of ACH Communications. A version of this article originally ran on his blog, Communications Conversations.