College freshmen can’t help but feel a bit of trepidation when they follow their Twitter feed these days.
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News of economic uncertainty and the attendant bleak jobs outlook are re-tweeted with ferocity across every networking site in existence. The irony accompanying this no-doubt troubling news is that the very modes of sharing bad news with students and others are experiencing their own period of unprecedented expansion. An embedded part of the online learning that makes up a huge part of today’s coursework, online social collaboration provides tomorrow’s executives with powerful marketing lessons. Played well, the very social media skills possessed by today’s university student, regardless if they are 18 or 35, might lead to that first good job even in tough times.
Moving beyond the ubiquitous advice for college students to open a LinkedIn account—advice that is not widely adopted—students with an eye beyond the graduation party simply need to start their career networking on this social media option long before they realize why it’s indispensable. Most useful are strategies for how to actually build relationships—and your reputation/brand—on LinkedIn. Here are several:
1. Give More than You Take
First, build from connections for which you’ve provided some value. If you’ve developed a good relationship with a professor, especially one in your chosen field in whose class you’ve performed well, start there. Club and organization sponsors who know you as a reliable member are good first choices as well. Not-for-profit service organizations are also good sources for adding to your network as they can vouch for your contributions, attitude and work ethic. Don’t simply ask for a connection because someone owns a business or has an “in” at a company you’re following. By building a network early on, you’ll likely have an earned contact that can refer you to an important connection.
2. Choose Wisely
Linkedin is not Facebook. Enough said.
3. Be a Gardener
Career networking on Linkedin is an iterative refining process. Your first year should include seeking career advice and information helpful for defining your search. Use this to weed out connections that take up time, but don’t add value to your ultimate goal.
While time is something (diligent) students have in short supply, maintaining a career-oriented blog can actually better utilize those brief shots of time among studying, sleeping and socializing. Promoted on other social networking activities, a blog that shows your growth in skill and knowledge pertinent to your career goals can provide a symbiotic boost in attracting the attention of helpful contacts.
There’s no doubt that with 800 million users and counting, Facebook can’t be ignored as an important source for identifying resources that will help you find that first great job. It can also be a quick way to get doors permanently closed for you without you even knowing they existed. Focusing on the positive though, creating a professional-pursuits-only Facebook page, linked to your exclusively-career-oriented e-mail address, can augment your array of platform tools to get you noticed for the right reasons as you pull away from the pack looking for that one job you’re earning as you learn.
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Guest Author: Lindsey Harper Mac is a professional writer living in the Midwest. Currently completing her graduate studies, Lindsey writes about social media, higher education and career management.
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