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?

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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Interview with Arik Hanson: Tips for Job Seeking Students

Arik Hanson, APR; ACH Communications
Arik Hanson, APR; ACH Communications

Arik Hanson, APR; ACH Communications, is a PR expert who has been a great mentor and friend to me since I’ve met him not too long ago.  Always looking to help others, he has now offered some advice for you, my readers, to help clear up some questions that college students looking for a job may have. Here we go!

1)  How should students approach their established connections to ask for job opportunities? When is the best time to start asking?

Don’t start asking about full-time opportunities until you’re ready and able to take a job. However, that shouldn’t stop you from discussing opportunities and exploring possibilities with your “real world” colleagues. As far as approaches, I’d suggest as much face-to-face interaction as possible. Invite a professional out to lunch. Take them out for coffee. You’ll be surprised how open folks are open to this approach. Most want to give back, just like someone did for them once upon a time.

2)  What are the best methods students can use to create connections with professionals?

The tried-and-true approaches still work today. You know why? Because so many students still aren’t using them! Attend PRSA or IABC events and start introducing yourself to professionals. Then, follow up with a call and ask to take them out to coffee sometime so you can learn more about what they do. Participate in existing programs.

In Minnesota, we have a program for students called Pro-Am Day. Students have the opportunity to shadow a pro and learn more about a day-in-the-life of a PR professional. Great opportunity, but so many students miss the bigger picture. Yes, we get great participation from students in the actual event. But, what’s missing is the follow-up. Most of us pros participate in this program because they want to help and mentor the next generation of PR pros. But, it can’t be a one-sided situation. I’ve participated in Pro-Am Day now for six years–I have yet to have a student call me afterward and ask if I’d like to grab a coffee and talk about career advice and PR. Students are simply missing out on a fantastic opportunity to build relationships with folks in the industry. Remember, most jobs don’t come from online channels or job boards–they come from word-of-mouth and references.

To that end, social medial channels can also be a great way to start the conversation. Just like what you’re doing David–very smart. Connect with folks in the industry–keep your name top of mind. When they have an opening, and you send them a note, they will remember your name and the work you’re capable of doing.

3)  To what extent are students expected to censor their online profiles? How can they do this while keeping to the values of transparency in social media?

Organizations are facing this exact same issue right now, which is why you’re seeing more social media policies popping up. The learning for students: There are no black and while rules, but there are guidelines. Be yourself online, but just be aware that nearly everything you post can be accessed by a recruiter or manager. If it’s me, and I’m searching for that first job, I’m pretty darn aware of the photos I’m posting to my Facebook page. I’m not saying you need to censor yourself completely–but, your online persona is a direct reflection of your real self. Organizations in the PR industry want to hire folks who are responsible, mature and creative thinkers. They don’t want to hire folks they think may embarrass the organization. That’s not a new thing. My advice: Expect every potential employers to search every online asset (photos, blog posts, etc) you produce. If you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see it/read it, don’t post it..

4)  What was one thing that you wish you did differently, or that you wish you were aware of when searching for your first full time job?

For me, I really wish I would have taken the more personal approach. Like many students, I search job boards, scoured listings in our career resource center and browsed the newspaper listings (back when those mattered–remember, I’m old). But, I realize now, the way to stand out among the crowd is to establish those personal, more human connections. And it’s not that hard. Again, not many students are doing it, so for the ones that are, they stand out like rock stars. I also would have looked and accepted an agency job right out of school. Great way to learn about a variety of different PR disciplines to figure out what you want to pursue further. Plus, you usually have the chance to travel–both across the U.S. and the world. What a great opportunity to experience different areas of the country and parts of the world–even if you are usually working 18-hour days during those business trips!

5)  What are some things that students can do to stand out from the crowd, differentiating themselves from other job candidates? What are specific things that you look for?

Well, you could walk around NYC with a bunch of resumes attached to your body. If I remember correctly, that’s what Peter Shankman did–seemed to work for him. For me, it comes down for three areas:

  1. Writing. Huge. A must have. And employers need to see samples–lots of them. From internships, pro-bono work, even blog posts. We need to get a feel for how well you can write.
  2. Initiative. This is surprisingly big–for me. In PR, you can’t be a wallflower. You need to be able to speak up in a meeting with senior executives. You need to be able to take a project with minimal direction and make it happen and produce quality results. And you need to be able to start and facilitate engaging and productive conversations with clients, colleagues and partners. Again, wallflowers need not apply.
  3. Social media skills. This is where students can really shine right now. There’s a whole sector of professionals that are uncomfortable using these new tools. But most recognize the need to at least explore the possibilities they hold for their organizations. And they need help. Students have been living and breathing many of these new technologies for years. Today’s students grew up on Facebook, MySpace and text messaging. I’m only 36, but I grew up with a land-line phone (with a cord), a word processor and bulletin boards. Big difference. Students can add tremendous value in this area by helping “coach up” senior-level professionals on the ins and outs of social media.

You can find a Lauren Fernandez’s answers to these questions here.  Thanks so much for your time Arik!

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.

13 Tips For Your First Networking Event

Kelly Samardak (@socialmedium)
Mashable NYC Event Photo cred: Kelly Samardak

I recently attended the Mashable NYC event which was in fact my first professional networking event (not counting those completely useless job fairs).  As a first timer, I had no idea what to expect.  Is this going to help me? Are people going to take a college student seriously? How should I dress? Am I going to know what to say?

Well I set my doubts aside (big step), signed up for the event, attended and could not be more happy with my decision.  I can now provide you with some answers based on MY experience. Of course, everyone’s experience is different.  This will apply more to younger professionals, specifically college seniors, who are looking to expand their network in social media. Here are 13 things I learned…

  1. Make connections before the event. My night would have been a lot more difficult if I hadn’t connected with attendees before the event.  Most events will have a list with contact info for anyone attending the event. Don’t be afraid to send them an email or look them up on twitter and tell them you’re going to the event and wanted to connect with some people before hand.  It’s a huge confidence booster to see some familiar faces when you first arrive.
  2. Dress semi-casual. One of the things I love about the social media / interactive industry is how laid back it is. Don’t show up in a t-shirt and jeans but you don’t have to wear a shirt and tie either. A nice, clean sweater or button down and khakis or nice jeans will do just fine.
  3. Get there early. If you walk in late, you’ll find it harder to meet people who are already engaged in conversations, and you’ll miss out on whatever free promotions are provided (Peroni sponsored the Mashable event).  Everyone likes to have a drink to take the edge off at these events and if you miss the free drinks, be ready to pay (a lot) for them.
  4. Go Alone! This is something that I was torn over when going to this event.  Now that I went alone, I can say with full confidence that you should not bring a friend with you to a networking event.  It’s tough going to a social event without a wingman but if you bring one, you’ll find it is nothing more than an excuse to talk to them instead of meeting new people.

    wearenommashev
    Photo cred: Kelly Samardak
  5. Be creative. Think of something creative that will make you stand out and help break the ice, commencing conversation. The best example I saw was Arthur Bouie representing We Are Nom who carried around a basket of cookies to give out. They were a hit…and delicious.
  6. State your goal first. Everyone at the event is there for the same thing you are, to make some new connections that may provide future business opportunities and share ideas.  Whether you’re there to look for job, hiring, or collaborative opportunities, the first words out of your mouth should be your name, what you do and why you’re there.
  7. Pick up a nametag. duh right? Well I didn’t even notice the nametag table since it was so crowded until Colleen Eddy was kind enough to point it out to me. Here’s a tip that combines #5 and #6: Write what your goal is on your nametag! I simply wrote “I NEED A JOB!”nametag2 under my name and it worked like a charm. The name tag is the first thing everyone looks at when walking around and people started approaching me!
  8. Be prepared to tell people exactly what you can do for them. This was one of the most common questions I was asked and I regrettably have to admit that I wasn’t fully prepared for it.  As a college student, I expected to only be qualified for entry level jobs where you’re pretty much told what you need to do.  There were a lot of people however that wanted to know what services I would provide for them.  You may know what you can do for companies but you have to be able to convey it to them in a clear and precise manner.
  9. Relax! I don’t know how networking events are in other industries, but the social media crowd is typically very friendly and obviously loves to talk!  Don’t be afraid to go right up to someone and say hi! You will only be received with a big smile and a hand shake.  I had some great, in depth conversations that stemmed from a simple, “hi, I’m Dave =D”.
  10. Bring business cards and a pen. These are really the only things you need on your person.  When someone gives you a card, after you’re done talking to them write a note on the card to help you remember who they are and what you spoke about.  I didn’t do this and found it difficult to match faces to cards from memory when I got home.
  11. Know when to stop talking. Some people you meet will want to have long, interesting conversations with you.  Others will want to know who you are, what you do, get your information, and move on to the next person.  It’s not hard to pick up on the vibe that someone doesn’t want to talk to you anymore.  Say “it was great to meet you” and move on.
  12. Send e-mails the next day. I’d say that you have about 2 days before someone completely forgets about you if no further communication is attempted.  While you’re fresh in your new contacts’ minds, drop them an email.  Keep it short and sweet, tell them how great it was to meet them, and if you’re looking for a job, attach your resume.
  13. Don’t wait until after graduation! I very well may have been the youngest person at the event, but I received only positive feedback.  People thought it was great that I was networking before I graduated.  Most professionals were impressed and commended my enthusiasm.  I made some great connections with some amazing people and created job opportunities come graduation in May.  It’s never too early to start networking. (Well you have to be 21 to attend most networking events but you can still network in other ways!)

If you’re a college senior and you’re thinking about attending a networking event but can’t bring yourself to go, then please just trust me and GO!  You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain from connecting with like-minded professionals.

Feel free to comment with your own tips and experiences.  Would love to hear about YOUR experience at your first networking event!

You can find the rest of Kelly’s picture set from the Mashable event here.

Web 2.0 Class: Day One

computer-labThis semester my school, SUNY Geneseo, has FINALLY created a class that discusses web 2.0 and emerging web technologies.  Previously named the “e-commerce” class that taught the traditional systems of online business, Professor Horn is revamping the course to teach students about using different web 2.0 platforms for business purposes.  As a developing field, obviously there are no set guidelines or systems to teach social media.  This class will be highly experimental and will involve web 2.0 values such as collaboration and student feedback to develop the actual class material.

First Day Introduction

After giving a brief introduction of web 2.0, the rest of the class was used to see exactly how familiar the students were with emerging technologies and different web 2.0 terms.  A survey was taken to see how many students are familiar with different tech terms.  Outside of the big terms like facebook and youTube, as expected in a Fine Arts focused school, the level of familiarity with terms like “RSS“, “wiki” and even Twitter, in the class was very low.

Professor Horn provided this chart to show the class how each web technology has developed into web 2.0

picture-21

Course Goals and Objectives:

  • Define and use different Web 2.0 technologies
  • Explain and demonstrate the business benefits of podcasts, wikis, blogs, virtual worlds, simulations, social networking software, etc.
  • Make recommendations regarding Web 2.0 business initiatives
  • Critique articles related to emerging technologies
  • Use online resources and portals to find useful materials

Books:

Professor Horn’s Ideas

  • All students will create an account on google to gain access to google apps. Students will learn how to use adwords, calendar, docs, and other relevent apps.
  • Students will use Secondlife to build on the land that the school has reserved.  Possibility of holding a class online through Secondlife (I love this idea)
  • Students will learn how to build and maintain a wiki.
  • Final project: Students will use everything they learned in class to revamp the Information Systems class (teaches students how to create and maintain databases) to incorporate web 2.0 technologies.
  • All students’ ideas and feedback will be applied to the course.  16% of the student’s grade will be based on team projects that have yet to be determined.

My Ideas

  • Have each student start a blog about something that they’re passionate about on a free platform like wordpress or blogger.  Have them update the blog weekly and provide feedback to other student’s blogs in their groups.
  • Students will sign up for google reader to allow them to read each other’s blogs and any other blogs they find interesting.
  • Have students sign up for twitter and follow each other.  Use twitter to collaborate on projects and share ideas.  Can also be used to complement blogs and drive traffic.

I am very excited about Geneseo embracing social media in such an open minded manner.  With something as new and unfamiliar as social media, the only way that it can be successfully taught is with an open mind and respect for innovation.  Prof. Horn is very open to everyone’s ideas and values collaboration in the classroom.  It will be very interesting to see how the class develops throughout the semester.

Do you know of any social media classes?  What kind of projects did they do?  What kind of projects would you be interested in if you were in the class?

This is the first post in a series of posts that can be found under the category “Web 2.0 Class” that will cover this class throughout the course of the semester.

7 Tips to Engage College Students

picture-11Are your messages reaching college students or are they being tossed away quicker than class notes after a final? Today’s college students and recent graduates, including those from online colleges [ad] have been using services like livejournal, myspace and facebook for a very long time and have developed a talent for sniffing out worth while messages from the noise that floods their mailboxes and social websites.  If done right however, word spreads through college campuses like a cold in a dorm building.  If you have something valuable to provide and you don’t want it to get lost in the noise,  here are some things to tips and things to keep in mind when attempting to engage college students…

  1. If you’re direct emailing off of a research based database…stop.  If students want to be emailed about something, they’ll sign up for it.  Even if you have something valuable, the minute they see a “pitch” in the subject line, they’ll delete it.
  2. Students join groups that their friends are already involved in.  Facebook groups are a great example of this.  In your feed, you are told when your friends join a group or become a fan of something.  They don’t want to feel like they’re missing out on something that their friends are involved in.
  3. Organize your job board.  I can’t tell you how many students, including myself, are searching online for job opportunities.  The problem is, 99% of the jobs they find are for more experienced professionals.  If you want to drive college traffic to your blog or site with a job board, make a clear section that is specific to entry level jobs.
  4. Add a little wit to your twit. Whether you’re reaching through blogging, twitter, or other social networks, keep your content witty and fresh.  College students spend 5 days a week reading boring, bland material.  If you make your content fun to read, they’ll appreciate it.
  5. Brevity is king. Think about how willing you would be to read a long email or blog post after reading 10 chapters of Freud, or sitting through an hour long exam. Time is valuable in college, so take up as little of it as possible and you will be well received.
  6. Sponsor student reps. College campuses are extremely viral environments.  If you don’t know someone, you probably know someone that does.  Create that facebook group then sponsor a couple students to represent you on campus. As I said in #2, students are attracted to groups that their friends are already in, so hire their friends!  A familiar, friendly face can get students to listen to your message. The only companies I have seen on my campus have been red bull and skoal (says a lot about us huh?) so there is a lot of opportunity to embrace a practically untouched marketing method.
  7. Collaborate with clubs and organizations. This is a great way to reach out to college students that can be relatively inexpensive as they receive funding from their school.  Contact the marketing club or any college business organization and give them an opportunity to collaborate with you. Clubs are always hosting events that you can sponsor.  Or you can really collaborate.  Give them some merchandise, have them create a marketing campaign for your company and test it out in their own college campus.  They will appreciate having the opportunity to do something real with an actual company instead of dealing with hypothetical situations.  (I’m trying to find opportunities like this for the Geneseo Marketing Club)

There are so many ways to reach college students.  If you do it right, the viral power of a college campus can pay dividends.  Not only will it spread through campus, but to all those college students’ friends from back home with the help of facebook and other social media platforms.

If any companies are interested in collaborating with the Geneseo Marketing Association Club (GMAC) email me at dspinks5@gmail.com