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?

A Problem With Twitter Chats?

Photo cred: Lise

Who owns a community on twitter? No one can moderate it so does anyone really control it?

After participating in #blogchat last weekend, I read a post from Mack Collier. The comments held a lively debate. I suggest you read a bit of the comments, but the basic argument was this:

Mack commented on the issue of people coming and tweeting out links to their posts using the #blogchat hashtag without really participating in the chat.
Ryan, one of the people Mack quoted in the post, contended that a hashtag isn’t “owned” by anyone. He was using the tag to reach people he thought would find those posts useful. There is no “wrong” way to use a hashtag.

As a fellow chat founder, I understand how Mack felt. He loves his community, and hates to see it mistreated. Still, I realized that our chats are run on a hashtag in a completely open forum. You can’t prevent someone from using a hashtag however they want. No one owns a hashtag.

If someone wanted to start a blogchat today, and say that it’s a hashtag used to share blog posts about blogging, there’s really nothing, the original blogchat community, could do about it. Same for #u30pro…same for any other chat.

Personally, I love that people share good posts in the #u30pro feed throughout the week, as long as it’s not spammy. But really, there’s nothing we can do about it.

Gathering around a common interest is great on twitter. But for large, organized communities, is twitter the best option?

“You, Inc.” a New Way To Look At Your Personal Brand

Photo cred: Thomas Hawk

Do you get emotionally affected when someone criticizes your professional work?

Do you get depressed when business doesn’t go your way?

I’m reading the War of Art (affil) by Steven Pressfield and he discusses a concept he calls “Me, Inc.”  It may be more relevant to the self employed, but it really has me thinking…

Pressfield separates himself from his work by looking at himself as two different entities: Him as a Person and him as a Corporation.

“Making yourself a corporation (or just thinking of yourself in that way) reinforces the idea of professionalism because it separates the artist-doing-the-work from the will-and-consciousness-running-the-show.  No matter how much abuse is heaped on the head of the former, the latter takes it in stride and keeps on trucking…

If we think of ourselves as a corporation, it gives us a healthy distance on ourselves.  We’re less subjective.  We don’t take blows as personally.  We’re more cold-blooded; we can price our wares more realistically.”

Then this really resonated with me…

“Sometimes, as Joe Blow himself, I’m too mild-mannered to go out and sell.  But as Joe Blow, Inc., I can pimp the hell out of myself.  I’m not me anymore.  I’m Me, Inc.”

Is this the same as what we call “personal branding”? Are you the same as the personal brand you’ve created?  Or is your personal brand a separate entity from yourself, created to distance your emotionally driven personal self (You) from your professionally driven corporate self (You, Inc.)?

I think if you separate yourself in this way, personal branding, the way we understand it, becomes more acceptable.  You’re not promoting yourself, you’re promoting “You, Inc.”  Because really, that’s why we’re here right?  To build our careers or corporations.

Sure the personal and professional lifestyles are become intertwined, but that doesn’t mean they’re one and the same.

What do you think?

The Forgotten Art of Research

Photo cred: Troy Holden

Research.

It’s an art.  One that we practice for many years, but forcefully forget.

It’s something that was drilled into us since the first day of school.  If we wanted to learn something, we had to read about it in a boring, overpriced textbook.  We would then have to take a test, write a paper, or do something to prove that we actually did the research.

It sucked.

It sucked so much that the second that diploma is handed to you, you feel a huge sigh of relief knowing that you’ll never be forced to study again.  You can now spend the rest of your days reading what you want, and learn by doing.

Research is still valuable long after you graduate but you avoid it because it feels like homework.

The professionals and entrepreneurs that really go far are the ones taking in as much information as possible related to their topic.  If you want to be great at your job, you have to research the crap out of it.  Read books, blog posts, case studies…do anything you can to make yourself more savvy and get an edge.

BUT…relying on blogs or twitter to learn everything won’t cut it.

Bloggers don’t dig deep enough…and twitter lacks any depth whatsoever.  Google the term “research”.  The number 1 result is Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is the cliff notes for the cliff notes.  They can all be great research tools but will only teach you so much.

Don’t forget about research.  It takes time and commitment.  It’s not easy to find the right information.  In the end though, it will pay off.

When was the last time you really researched something?  Has the art of research been forgotten?

If you have any good research tools or practices, share them in the comments.

How Long Until Truthful Information Becomes Worthless?

Photo cred: Diego Sevilla Ruiz

Hypothetical situation: You trust me. I post an article somewhere. Your trust for me then translates to trust in the content I’m sharing, and so you trust that the article is credible. Then you share it, your readers trust you…rinse, and repeat.

Safe to say this happens often?

Today, credibility in content is determined by who and how many share it. As credibility becomes increasingly determined by sharability the value of the truth is driven downward.

Look at it from a basic economic perspective. As the supply of information increases, the price of information decreases. Supply is at an all time high, price is at an all time low. As the price of information decreases, the resources used to provide quality information becomes unaffordable. If consumers don’t pay for information, suppliers can’t invest any money to ensure its credibility.

Truthful information has never faced the competition it faces today. As citizen journalism grows as a primary source for information, the need for investigative journalism as a paid alternative decreases.

Bloggers do not have to write truthful content. In fact, many of the most successful (popular) blogs focus on SEO and on writing successful copy in order to drive ad revenue, product and affiliate sales. Their “success” in driving traffic then translates to credibility in the eyes of the reader. If a blogger gets a ton of traffic, they must be credible, right?

They’re writing to get more people to come to their site, with absolutely no check on honesty.

Truthful content still exists, but is often buried under google pages of the popular stuff. Even if you refused to take information at face value, and choose to dig deeper in search of the truth, chances are you won’t find it.

As you become more reliant on social networks to determine what information is worthy of reading, you play into a system that has minimal consideration for credibility.

Where honesty should reign supreme, popularity now drives authority and credibility.

How much longer until truthful information becomes completely worthless?

A Lens Cap, a Pegshot, and a Shitty Envelope

Last week I was at social media week New York.

I went to the Obliterati party on Thursday night.

Whilst mingling and pretending I know how to take pictures, my lens fell off my camera…never to be seen again.  Needless to say, I was mildly distraught.

See? “=(“ = sad and “=\” = mildly sad.

But wait…

Phil DiGiulio (@holaphil) found it!  Just when I thought all was lost…

Yea…he even added a picture using his awesome website, pegshot.  He also used his service earlier in the week to provide the public immediate coverage of an elevator he got stuck in with Ann Curry, Jeff Pulver, and others…

Within moments, Patrick Johnson spotted the tweet, put tweet and tweet together, and excitedly tweeted that shit in my direction… tweet.

We then connected, and Phil offered to mail it over to me.  He’s the man.

Finally, my lens cap and I would be reuinited!!!

Until the envelop ripped on both sides and the lens cap fell out in the mail…

So the moral of this story is uhhhh…