7 Ways a College Student Can Start Becoming a Professional Now

Photo Cred: Jasmin Cormier

Whether you’re about to graduate in a couple weeks or you have a few semesters ahead of you, there are lots of things you can do to get started on your career.

I know I know, you want to enjoy your days at school while you can without having to worry about the “real world” that lies ahead.

You don’t have to devote all of your free time to developing your career.  There are little things that you can get started on now, that will pay off dividends after you graduate.

Want to get your career off to a good start after you graduate?  Here are some tips.

  1. Plant your seeds. If you’re not sure where to get started networking, just look around you.  You’re surrounded by future professionals (classmates) and seasoned vets (professors).  You also have a huge network of active professionals (alumni).  Sign up for Linked In, and start connecting with EVERYONE that you know.  You never know when a simple Linked In connection could lead to a big opportunity.  Here, you can start by connecting with me.
  2. Participate in projects. There are tons of things you can do around campus that will look great to future employers and will give you some great experience.  Start writing for the college newspaper.  Or better yet, start your own as a blog!  Start communities for students in the same position as you.  Just start something.  If you fail, who cares…?  You’ll learn a ton and it will look a lot better on your resume than whatever other crap we tend to fill that POS paper with.
  3. Attend events. Have you met Patrick Johnson?  No?  Well there are a ton of PR professionals who do because the kid is at every conference he can make it too.  Think you can’t afford it? Guess again.  Most conferences have student discounts, and pretty much ALL conferences take volunteers.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazingly prominent professionals by volunteering at conferences.  Usually how it works is you work for half the conference, and the other half you can do what you want.  Start shaking hands.
  4. Join communities. There are hundreds of communities online for professionals.  You can find them on Linkedin, twitter, facebook, and niche social networks.  I got started in my career by joining 20 Something Bloggers and Brazen Careerist.  Just join them and start asking questions.  Professionals respect a student that’s taking the initiative to get out there and learn.
  5. Start writing. Whether it’s for your blog, for someone else’s blog, in your own private notebook…whatever.  Writing will help you learn and grow as a professional.
  6. Establish mentorships. It’s not something you can just set up usually.  By participating in communities, attending events, and networking, you’ll start to build stronger relationships with professionals.  Email them.  Ask them for skype chats.  Ask questions.  When you dive off the college cliff into the rapids of the real world, a mentor can be your life vest.  (Take that home…chew on it).
  7. Ignore me and do whatever you want. These tips are what worked for me.  They may or may not work for you.  If you have the motivation to kick off your career right, just do.  The first and biggest thing I’ve learned since graduating is that the doers will flourish.  No matter what I, or anyone else tells you, you just have to do what you think will work for you.  Just do.

Do you have any more tips for college students?  If you’re a college student, do you have any questions?

Too Much Networking Makes Bad Marketers

Photo cred: Andy Beal

A marketer’s ability to do their job relies on how well they understand their audience…

Same goes for you PR professionals. You too advertising pros!

…so unless your audience (the one you were hired to understand) consists of mostly marketers, focusing so much time and effort on them will not make you much better at your job.

One could argue that lately, many professionals are equally (or more) concerned with building their personal network as they are with being good at their job.

This is especially an issue for young communications professionals and students.

We’re just starting out, and the first thing we now learn isn’t to start studying people and marketing, it’s to use social media to network and build a personal brand.

When you focus on interacting with other communications professionals all the time, you lose touch with the people that you’re supposed to understand…the ones you’re getting paid to understand.

Learning how to reach out and engage with communications professionals will usually be very different from engaging with other people.  If you’re focusing too much on the former, you’ll quickly find yourself failing at the latter.

A communications professionals has to understand what people want, what triggers them, what turns them off, how to reach them, how to build trust with them, etc… and strictly communicating with other marketing professionals will only take you so far.

Is the value of a professional’s network starting to outweigh the value of their ability as a professional?

What happens when we focus more on meeting communications professionals than on becoming a better communications professionals?

You’re Being Cliché

Odd one out
The Nonconformist

Do you hate being called cliché? Do buzzwords piss you off? Do you avoid certain discussions just because they’re cliche?

Maybe, just maybe, you even look down on people who you consider to be cliché or that uses buzzwords?

I think we all do to some extent…but why do we do it?  Is it a smart move (professionally) to avoid “clichés” or do we just do it because we find it to be embarrassing to fall into a cliché?

If you’re not using buzzwords just because you don’t want to be cliché, you’re missing the point.  The point isn’t the wording or definitions.  It’s what they actually represent. It’s the concept, or idea behind them. If you disagree with the concept behind the cliché, then that’s fine…but don’t avoid it simply because it’s cliché.

If you’re getting caught up in not looking “cliché” by avoiding buzz words, you’re probably missing opportunities.

There’s a reason that things are considered cliché.  It’s because they make sense, they’re popular and they’re widely accepted. As a professional, wouldn’t you want to tap into that?

I’ve said it many times before, but I learn a lot of my life lessons from South Park.  In the episode, “You Got F’d in the A“, Stan tries to recruit some kids to join his dance crew.  He reaches out to the goth kids for help…

Stan: Please, you guys, our whole town’s reputation is at stake! Will any of you do it?
Red Bang Goth: I’m not doin’ it. Being in a dance group is totally conformist.
Henrietta: Yeah. I’m not conforming to some dance-off regulations.
Little Goth: I’m not doin’ it either. I’m the biggest nonconformist of all.
Tall Goth: I’m such a nonconformist that I’m not going to conform with the rest of you. Okay, I’ll do it.

So, in summary… if you’re avoiding clichés just because they’re clichés, then you’re being pretty cliché.  Make your own decisions. Don’t approve, or disapprove of something simply because of it’s popularity.

Thoughts?

NEW: The u30pro Digest

u30pro

#u30pro is a weekly twitter chat (Thursdays at 7pm est) started by Lauren Fernandez and David Spinks that covers topics and issues facing young professionals.

We started the chat at the end of August.  It’s been truly amazing so far and hearing how much everyone enjoys the chats really makes us love hosting them that much more.

We love the idea that young professionals can
have a place to discuss issues that they’re facing, and that we can bring in more experienced professionals to shed some light from the other end of the spectrum.

We’d like to continue to build out the chat and grow the community that is forming around it.  So we decided to launch the u30pro digest!

Once you subscribe, every week we’ll send out a digest of the best blog posts from young professionals in the #u30pro community.  We will also feature a U30 Pro.  You can sign up using the form below.

To subscribe CLICK here.


This is very much a work in progress as we are looking to make u30pro as valuable as possible.  We will continue to build out the chat, this weekly digest, and stay tuned for more updates!

If you’d like to submit blogs to be considered for inclusion in the weekly digest, you can comment here, email it to u30pro [at] gmail [dot] com or DM it on twitter to @u30pro.

Real Relationships

Photo cred: Olga
Photo cred: Olga

We all have an agenda.  We’re all here, connecting online, to get something out of it.

In #socialmedia chat this week hosted by Chris Brogan, this topic came up and drove a pretty solid conversation.

Can we claim to develop truthful, real relationships when we’re ultimately looking to get something out of those relationships?

I love to connect with people.  I value the relationships I have built online and consider many to be close friends.  At the same time, I am online with an agenda to build my career, to create valuable professional connections and to create opportunities.

Take this one step further.  You’re supposed to engage before you pitch.  Build a relationship with a blogger before pitching them.  But if the relationship is a means to an end, where you’re ultimately looking to get coverage, how real can that relationship be?

I think you can do both.  Be realistic but be real at the same time.  You’re there to get something out of it the same way those around you are there to get something out of it.  But the existence of an agenda doesn’t mean that you can’t develop real relationships along the way.

Here’s 3 ways to know if a relationship is real…

  1. The relationships doesn’t end after the lead. Engagement will follow through.  As I said in the chat, relationships should be timeless even after the sale, or they’re not relationships, they’re leads.
  2. The engagement is mutual and meaningful. Both parties engage consistently with each other in more than passing bits of conversation.  They must have sincere interest in one another.
  3. It’s not all agenda. Is one party only engaging when they need something?  That’s not a relationship.

In the end, only you know whether or not the relationships you’re building are real, or just part of your agenda.

Are you creating real, meaningful relationships?  Or are you pretending to create relationships in order to generate leads?  Where’s the “line”?

Developing a Community On and Off Campus

Stuart Foster-207This is a guest post by Stuart Foster, a marketing consultant in the Boston area. He specializes in brand management, social media, and blog outreach. He authors a blog at Thelostjacket.com.
Photo cred: Alisa Ryan
Photo cred: Alisa Ryan

Colleges have a built in vibrant community on campus. They have varied interests, participate in multiple things and often are socially aware. Aren’t those some of the hallmarks of a great community?

Now what if you were to plug alumni into that community? The students would have access to jobs, resources, and lines of communication with alumni that would be difficult or near impossible to create through the Career Services center.

By building a more inclusive community (and doing it right) you could strengthen your alumni-student relations to an unprecedented degree. Need an internship? Where do you go look?

If you have a pre-existing relationship with a member of your college’s alumni you likely go to that person for recommendations. They have access to people and groups that you wouldn’t have known they existed otherwise.

The creation of this type of network would eliminate a lot the bureaucracy currently existing at many schools. I went to the career services office at my school and came away ill prepared with any idea of what I wanted to do or the people I needed to talk to too procure an internship. I’m sure I am not alone in this frustration.

When I want to develop a relationship with a person…I don’t want to go to another person first. I want to connect directly with the person I am interested in meeting and learning more about. Social networks could possibly bridge the current disconnect.

What are the benefits for alumni? The same as they are for the student only in reverse. They now have a wealth of talent from which to pool and can pre-screen candidates before even considering them for an internship. It would cut down on a lot of legwork on the part of both parties.

Huge opportunity here…now they just need to actually do it. (In a real way, not the convoluted non-usable enterprise garbage that most have set up).

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Web 2.0 Class: Part 2

Welcome to the second post in a the Web 2.0 Class Series.  Remember you can find all posts from this series by clicking the category “Web 2.0 Class” in the Topics section.

laptop
Photo cred: Aftab Uzzaman

What better way to kick off the second class meeting than to call for student feedback, a true representation of social media values?  Through the use of MyCourses, a platform (I am not particularly fond of) that has recently been adopted by  SUNY Geneseo and schools like Harvard, Brown and RIT, Professor Horn asked the students to respond to a few questions.

A few different web 2.0 technologies were used to gather student feedback…

1. Discussion Board (Forum): What are 3 things you would like to do/learn in this class?

I loved this idea.  I didn’t love that myCourses doesn’t allow students to view comments on a post so whoever didn’t start a new post could not be seen by their classmates. Regardless, in a brand new class with basically no set schedule or other examples to depend on, it is important that the professor is addressing things that the students want to learn, and not just what the professor wants to teach.

Student responses included:

  • How do websites make money without selling anything?
  • What is a podcast and how do you create one?
  • How to search / use the web effectively
  • Paypal (A little odd)
  • How to utilize blogs / blogging
  • How to build a website (the class won’t be doing much of this)


2. Blog Post: What are 3 things you DON’T want to do/learn in this class?

I also loved this and since only professors can post a blog entry, the students had to respond in comments that were viewable by anyone, avoiding the issue with the discussion board.

Student responses included:

  • Most popular: Learn less about the mechanics of these services and more about how they can be applied to business
  • Less lecture and more hands-on
  • Spend less time on programs that aren’t commonly used and more on programs that are popular / used frequently
    • (I disagree.  You never know how much relevance a program has until you use it. For example, Twitter isn’t popular on the Geneseo campus but has value in business applications)


3. Blog Post: Post your gmail address.

Pretty straightforward. The class will be using google apps to collaborate on projects.


4. Wiki: What is Web 2.0?

GREAT idea. A wiki was set up for students to write what they think web 2.0 means.  This isn’t meant to be answered immediately but rather something that will develop throughout the semester as students become more familiar with web 2.0 concepts. It will be very interesting to see how students’ answers will change over time.


Professor Horn told the students what he wants to cover in the class, taking into account students’ responses.  He also explained that he is open to letting students take on individual projects if they’re especially interested in a specific topic.

His topics to be covered included:

  • Websites: findability / usability
  • How websites make money on the internet
  • Mashups
  • Intellectual property rights / open source software
  • Wikis / collaboration tools
  • Instant messaging in the office / workspace

In the last class, a few different technology trends / topics were discussed.

  • Moore’s Law
  • The growth of Craigslist and its effects on newspaper revenues
  • The development of 3d movies to slow down movie piracy (Interesting…never thought about that before)
  • The decrease of marijuana use among teens as a result of web 2.0 / social media.  New technologies making it easier to communicate with friends online.  Teens can’t smoke if they’re on their computer at home with their parents. (Also very interesting.)
  • Finally, the long debate that I was happy to see many students had very strong opinions about;  MIT is making all their professors podcast their classes and make their notes available online.  How is this going to effect other schools / professors?  Will online courses completely replace the physical college campus?  You can expect a blog post on this topic soon.

Click here to see all “Web 2.0 Class” posts.