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?

How Would You Fix this Disconnect in Social Media Hiring?

Photo cred: madebytess

My friend Amber Naslund had a great post recently about the problems with social media job descriptions. I agreed with much of what she said.  So many job descriptions for social media related positions really just make me laugh.

My first reaction is usually to blame the company.  They obviously don’t get “it” and are making themselves look foolish with these job descriptions they’re posting online.

But wait…

Why am I blaming the company?

I thought we’re encouraging companies to start to experiment with social media platforms.  I thought companies are supposed to open their mind.  Now when they take their first step into social media, we judge them for not getting it right?

Amber really got me thinking.  How can companies, who know nothing about social media, know what to ask of a social media job candidate?  There’s a disconnect there.

How can companies fill this disconnect?  Should they start by approaching social media platforms with the employees and resources they already have?  Then when they’re a bit more comfortable with it, they can hire and build out a full team?  That’s what Lee Aase and the Mayo Clinic did and it seemed to work pretty well for them.

Or do they rely on external recruiters? Hire someone to hire someone?

I have my own ideas which I’ll end up sharing in the comments, but I’d like to hear your thoughts first.

What do you think?

14 Ways a Blog Will Help You Get a Job

keyboardNot everyone should start a blog…you should only start one if you are ready to commit to it and you have something to contribute.

If you think you can do that, then starting a blog is one of the most valuable tools you can utilize to get a job.

Starting a blog shows…

  1. your commitment to your field.
  2. your writing skills.
  3. your communication skills.
  4. your knowledge in your field.
  5. you… on search engines.
  6. how you deal with criticism and feedback.
  7. that you’re always thinking about issues and trends.
  8. your creativity.
  9. your persistence in maintaining the blog.
  10. your ability to bring new ideas to the table.
  11. your ideals and beliefs.
  12. your level of thought leadership in the community.
  13. your network and your ability to network.
  14. your love for what you do.

continue the list in the comments!  How else does having a blog help someone get a job?

How I Used Social Media to Get a Job

road
Photo cred: Jason (aka Jasmic)

First off, I’m proud to announce that I have been hired for this Summer as the Community Manager for Scribnia (in alpha), a web start-up based out of Boston, but working out of Philly. I am extremely excited about this opportunity and look forward to what should be an amazing experience to work with some great people.

Of course I use social media for a number of reasons, with finding a job only being one of my goals albeit the main one recently.  I would not have been able to create this job opportunity without the help of the social media tools I have frequented over the past several months.  I’d like to share my journey to this point with you in hopes that it might inspire some of you who are in a similar position to embrace these concepts.

I started off at my internship at Ruder Finn Interactive (RFI) which I may be referring to as the start to my career for the rest of my life. A big part of what I did at RFI dealt with reading and outreaching blogs. I quickly learned the value of blogging and began to read more and more about the social media space. There was a lot of talk on these social blogs about Twitter and so I checked it out.

I spent a couple months not really “getting” it and really only used my Twitterberry 2-3 times a week. I started following a lot of people in the social media space like @chrisbrogan @SoItsComeToThis @Skydiver @Scobleizer and other people that I already knew that were on twitter. Eventually Twitter “clicked” for me.  By connecting and following more and more interesting and helpful people, I was directed to a lot of great blogs where I started reading and commenting like crazy. I found my passion.

I reached the point in reading and commenting on blogs while connecting on twitter where I realized that I had a lot to say about this stuff, and decided to start my own blog. I went to wordpress.com, whipped up a blog and just started writing. It didn’t take me long to realize how tough and rewarding writing a blog can be. It would take me 2-3 hours to write each post, if I can come up with good ideas for posts. For a while I was also facing the new blogger’s dilemma, where I felt like I was speaking to the world and no one was listening. It’s not a fast or easy method, but you have to stick with it.

Fast forward…after months of reading, writing and connecting, I’ve created some amazing connections/friendships with professionals who share my passion. My blog has a small but amazing community, and has allowed me to show potentially hiring companies my level of knowledge and that I have a passion for the industry. I’ve learned more from conversing and sharing with other professionals than I ever could have from my classes or books. I’ve even had the privilege to guest post at blogs that I’ve followed and looked up to from the start, like Mashable and Kyle Lacy.

The biggest lesson I think I’ve learned is to never pass up an opportunity to connect and to network. These social media tools have made it easier than ever to network and you should use it to its fullest. Even if you don’t think there is that much to gain directly from connecting with someone, you never know where an opportunity might develop. By connecting and sharing with each other, you contribute to the community and make it better for everyone… including yourself.

Stuart Foster, a smart and wittily sarcastic consultant who created The Lost Jacket asked me to write a guest post for his blog. I immediately responded telling him I would. I wrote the post where a pretty interesting conversation ensued. One of those people in the conversation checked out my blog, and found me to be a good candidate for his company’s community manager position. I am now moving to Philly this Summer (=.

Regardless of your passion, you can contribute, connect, and share using these tools.  You never know where your opportunities will come.

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Interview with Lauren Fernandez: Tips for Job Seeking Students

Lauren Fernandez, American Mensa
Lauren Fernandez, American Mensa

Lauren Fernandez, American Mensa, is an enthusiastic PR Professional, who is always willing to help out students looking to become PR professionals.  Lauren was kind enough to provide some great advice for you through my blog, enjoy!

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

Once you start interning and gaining PR experience, you should treat every opportunity as a future job. You never know, because 5 years down the road that contact could be your next boss. When I was just beginning to intern, I would collect cards, and if I felt that I could learn from the person as a mentor, I would constantly email them with questions, advice and meet with them for coffee and/or lunch. I would also write a hand written thank you card every once in awhile. I don’t think it’s valuable to come right out and ask for a job – but by building a relationship and showing interest, you are saying “Hey, look at me – I am valuable and could be in the future.”

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

I am a big fan of Twitter – this is an easy way to get a hold of me, and also to start establishing a contact. Once we have that, we can move to email, phone and networking. I love meeting students at events, and coming home and already having an email thanking me for my time. The email that contains questions about the field and about what I do, how I got into PR, etc. will always gain a lot of mileage when creating a connection. Also, make sure to keep up the connection – don’t drop off the face of the planet. PR pros talk daily, and we share stories. The PR world is very small, even in big cities such as the DFW area where I work.

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?

Frankly, I don’t want to see parts of your body you wouldn’t show at work, or you chugging beer in the conga line. That is all fun in college, but this is the professional world, and you have to think of it from the standpoint of: What would your co-worker say if they were standing next to you in these pictures? Would your boss like to know that your interests include whiskey and chasing the opposite sex? Probably not. Your social media profiles and presence should only add to your character and exemplify it, not take away from it. There are privacy settings if you need to keep that one picture on there, but once you graduate, it really is time to grow up.

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?

I wish I knew the value of patience, and the fact that you don’t have to accept the first job that is offered to you. I know in this economy it can be a tough pill to swallow, but my dad gave me great advice when that first job I took went really sour and I quit: “Lauren, was that a job that you would be happy with if for the next 5 years you weren’t paid for it?” I didn’t have passion for that job, and that is something you should always have. You are a rockstar, and you have to believe in it. The job will come – and one that you love.

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?

I look for dedication, hard work, and response time. I am a very busy professional, but I can always stop to help someone if they are dedicated to this field. I only want those that can accelerate and benefit the field I love to enter it – and those are the ones I help. I don’t like arrogance (trust me, you aren’t a PR God come to save the field), and I love simple thank yous. If a student can respond to me in 24 hours or less, or at least tell me they received my message, then that will gain a lot of respect for me. If a student asks me to lunch, they stand out, because they aren’t afraid to be in a setting that is outside the professional workplace. If a student sends a hand-written note, that gets a lot of bonus points as well.


You can find Arik Hanson’s answers to these questions here.  Thanks for your time and thoughts Lauren!