Uni students and new grads all face the same dilemma: you’ve got the education, but without significant work experience under your belt, how do you distinguish yourself from the rest of the mob and convince employers that you’re the one they should hire for their next entry-level opening?
We’ve written before about the value of work placements and internships, as well as volunteer work and extracurricular activities, to demonstrate your practical skills and add some heft to your resume. But what else can you do to get a jump on your career?
If you’re like most students, you probably spend a lot of time chatting to your friends on Facebook or reading your favourite blogs. But have you thought about how you can leverage your online activity into a career-boosting advantage?
As a student, you should start developing your professional networks now. Because you never know when one of your fellow classmates could become a valuable professional contact down the track.
That means that after you’ve all graduated and gone your separate ways, you should keep in touch with your fellow grads, attend alumni events and subscribe to your alumni magazine or email network, as well as add your uni friends to your LinkedIn network.
Social networking is becoming increasingly recognised and encouraged by schools, and is even incorporated into certain courses. Students are encouraged to build professional profiles and connect with key industry players both in person and through networking sites so they can get professional advice, arrange internships and apply for entry-level positions.
But while online networking has blossomed into a powerful professional tool, there’s still no replacement for face-to-face contact – so you still need to brush up on your verbal communication skills, make appointments to meet with people in your industry, and attend professional events and workshops to make direct contact.
Jeff Laurie, head of APM College of Business and Communications, says, ‘Networking is a vital skill for any professional. At APM networking face-to-face and online is an integral part of each course offered by the college. The networking component of every degree at APM is just like a referral process where students are given the opportunity to establish a rapport with industry professionals. It is important to immerse students in the professional sphere to support their career prospects’.
Brittany Thomson is a student success story who used both online and face-to-face networking to land a job while she completes her Bachelor of Business and Communication at APM. Having impressed during her industry placement with the Barrington Group, and backed up by a comprehensive online profile, Brittany was offered an assistant marketing role while she continues to study. Brittany says her online networking skills, combined with traditional networking, helped her get the gig.
These days, everyone has an online presence, which can be anything from your Facebook or LinkedIn profile to Twitter tweets, comments you’ve made on blogs, articles you’ve posted online or photos in which you’ve been tagged – so make sure you make the most of your online profile, and keep it professional.
That means using LinkedIn to display your professional profile and network with others in your field; using Twitter to follow and interact with industry professionals and leaders; leveraging your Facebook contacts, keeping posts professional and tightening your Facebook privacy settings to ensure that your profile displays only what you want it to display to the world; joining and contributing to professional online forums; submitting your work to be published on relevant websites; and Googling yourself to see what results you get when you search your name. If there’s some dubious content out there that you can remove (like tweets or Facebook posts you probably shouldn’t have written), delete them!
Optimising your online presence is definitely worth your while. ‘By creating my own profile I have been able to approach and be seen by professionals in my industry’, says Brittany Thomson.
‘APM encouraged us to create our own online profiles with relevant groups. It has been a great way to establish a professional profile and is a simple and easy way to stay in touch with industry’, says Brittany.
In this digital age, having digital and social media savvy is hugely attractive to potential employers. Imagine how impressed they would be if you’ve had the initiative and technical skill to build your own website or start your own blog?
You can create your own website to present yourself to the world, showcase your design and writing talents, and develop your ‘brand’ in the process. Be sure to include an ‘about me’ section where people will be able to read about your background and experience. You could also create a gallery featuring your portfolio of visual or written works.
You could also start writing a blog about something you’re passionate about, be it food, fashion, travel or IT – there’s an audience for every topic! If you choose something you love and you can write about it in an interesting and informative way, it’s sure to attract an audience and you’ll soon be seen as an expert in that field. A blog is also a great way of opening you up to a whole new community of like-minded people, as it is by its nature highly interactive.
For the most successful, blogging itself can become a career. Just take a look at Mashable (social media) or The Sartorialist (fashion) for two of the world’s most successful and influential blogs.
If you start building your professional network in these ways while you’re a student, you’ll be one step ahead when it’s time to go looking for a job. You never know who might come calling!