Spring is a season of renewal, cleaning and preparation for a new crop of graduates ready to enter the so-called “real world”. For those trading in their cap and gown for a suit, tie, and office, sprucing up a social media presence can go a long way in being more presentable to employers, hiring managers, and even co-workers. This series will look at just how new graduates can increase their chances and stand out. Today we’ll look at how students can start a blog to help them find work and stand out among their peers.
As we head into the latter stages of April we hit another college staple: alumni networking events. This is the time of the year when campus organizations, academic departments and alumni associations start asking alumni to come back to campus and speak to students who are about to graduate about what tips to take into the real world as they prepare to graduate and leave the hallowed grounds of academia.
I found myself at one of these events the other day, and was not just chatting with seniors but also with sophomores and juniors. I asked some of them what their greatest fears were in the months and even years that lie ahead, and the answer I got was expected: the fear of not being hired.
I was once in that same chair. Unfortunately my time sitting in the chair occurred when the great recession of 2008 was still in full force, impacting graduates on my college year – 2010. Many of us were thrown out into a world where our talent, cheap as it may have been, was not quite welcome yet, save for the fact if you were a high achieving accounting graduate or engineer.
“Let me tell you something”, I said as I leaned in to impart some of my wisdom on these students. “You need to start looking at creating your own personal brand. The world we all thought we knew regarding work no longer exists. Companies want to hire people with a sense of their own brand that they can add into that of a company.”
“What does that mean?”, a student asked me back, unable to grasp the idea.
Here were some of the tips I offered them:
1. Craft your own message: Your brand begins with the message that you want to share with the world. It doesn’t matter what age you are, you have a message to share with the world. What is your mission? What is your vision? Better yet – what are you so passionate about that you are driven to emotions when a topic is brought up? For me it’s seeing that everyone rise above their potential and use the power of social media to spread their gifts and help make the world a better place.
2. Create a reputation: When I left campus in the summer of 2010 I had no idea what it was to network. I was social and had built good relationships but without the intent of doing much more besides having the connection. As a senior (or student who is going to become one) it’s important that you get out there and create a reputation for yourself as someone with a professional mindset. The professional world does not work in age or seniority outside of job titles, it works on quality of person. Even if you are at a networking event and are five, ten, twenty years younger, if you sound like you deserve to be there, someone will talk to you. Are you showing up? Are you adding value? Are you hungry?
3. Get beyond the classroom (and your future job): The world is no longer the safe place it used to be. Businesses are cutting staff and leaving more work for the remaining employees. More jobs are contract than permanent. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said “What you do from 9-5 is no doubt important, but what you do from 5-9 is infinitely more important”, and he was correct on the matter. Your day job is something you should keep, but how you apply the skills you learn after hours into any project you start is key. Of course, don’t burn yourself out!
4. Your attitude, not your aptitude, determines your altitude: Attitude matters more than anything, and plays probably the most important part of your brand. What are you talking about as an individual? Who do you associate with? Who matters to you? What are your values? As you get older it matters less what you look like, and matters more what you are as a person – and that is every part your brand and what people associate you with. If you are unwilling to learn, nobody can help you. If you are hungry, no one can stop you.
Lastly, brand building is not easy. There is a lot of time commitment. Keep at it and eventually your efforts will come to fruition. And of course when you do succeed, don’t forget to pay it forward!