It’s a brave new world for today’s college grads. Most of us are graduating with a degree that doesn’t guarantee anything (engineers included), and employers are no longer making decisions based solely off of someone’s resumé.
Instead, employers are looking to the Internet more than ever to find out about applicants’ personal and professional lives. This means that your online profiles need to stand out from the crowd and give your potential employer no choice but to bring you in and meet you in person.
But you already knew that. You’re probably just overwhelmed by how to go about doing it. Take the following steps and I promise that you’ll be light-years ahead of your peers.
1. Every online profile of any value includes a picture of you. Make sure it’s a good one. This is often the very first impression that people get of you. Professional headshots are optimal, but I bet you can find an aspiring photographer on campus looking to make a quick $20 who would be more than willing to take them for you. At the very least, take a few on your phone and edit them in Instagram.
2. COMPLETELY fill out your profiles. Your bios should be short and sweet. On Twitter for example, you have 140 characters to tell the world about who you are and what you do. As a young professional it is probably best to first establish your professional description and use the remaining characters to describe your uniqueness.
They’re called social networks for a reason. Don’t be afraid to use one or more of your social networks almost exclusively as a professional network. If you’re non-existent on Twitter or Google+, now is a great time to brand yourself from scratch on those networks.
Become an Industry Expert
Yes, I said “expert”. Meaning simply this: know everything there is to know something in your industry. You don’t have to be an expert in every aspect of your industry, but find one or two areas that really interest you. This will make learning about it much easier and will give you the desire to constantly learn about new trends, technologies and best practices.
This is how you become an expert. Take time out of your day to find fresh and relevant content from around your industry (retweets, +1s and shares are a great way to find and engage industry influencers and experts). I can tell you from personal experience that as you build a reputation as a reliable source of content, important (and fun) people will find you.
Write a Blog
This is how you prove you’re an expert. Writing a blog allows you to comment on the latest industry trends or offer your thoughts on best practices as you gain knowledge going through your classes and (hopefully) real-world internship and work experience. And don’t be afraid to send a post you’re particularly fond of to influencers in your industry. This gets your name in front of them and who knows, they might even share it with their followers!
Curating content and writing are 1A; this is 1B. Engage with people on your networks by sharing content and getting involved in conversations. You will learn a lot from the experts. But hey, you might be able to teach them a thing or two.
Once you’ve established yourself as a trustworthy source of industry-related content and insight, it’s time to relax….just kidding. Then it’s time to go, go, go! Keep networking and building your following. Never be afraid to contact someone who you admire. Chances are good that they’ve been in your shoes and are always willing to help a confident young professional who is trying to learn the ropes. They’ll see that you have a following of other influential people in your industry and see the kind of content that you share. They’ll respect and appreciate that and will likely remember you the next time a job opens up that you’re qualified for.
The phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is utterly false when it comes to utilizing social media in your career. You have to know things to get to know people. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve taken away from this last year. Be patient, be positive and good things will happen. Keep your eyes on your Twitter feed, because you never know what opportunities might come across it.
About the Author: Brandon Manson is a 2012 alum of Michigan State University. While finishing his music degree in vocal performance, Brandon began learning the digital media and marketing industry and is now involved with several organizations assisting with social media, branding, SEO, analytics and marketing strategy. Read Brandon’s blog, and connect on Twitter or email.