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Five ways college students can jumpstart the job search
Based on my recent time at the University of Oregon and my current email stream, it’s the time of year when college seniors only have one thing on their minds. Finding a job. It’s no surprise that most kids wait until their final semester to begin a serious search. But waiting that long could be a disadvantage.
Finding that first gig isn’t simply like launching a campaign for oneself, it’s more like a new business pitch. The former calls for research, planning, strategy, and creative. (Remember Alec Brownstein?) But the latter also demands building the kind of relationships that put you on someone’s radar much earlier in the timeline.
We now live in an age when that’s easier to do than ever. Social media eliminates barriers between students and professionals. It allows students to achieve a level of visibility previously impossible. It even enables opportunities to demonstrate intelligence, initiative, determination, responsibility and creativity (the five qualities every employer wants) long before it’s time to send off that digital resume or link to the website.
Rather than answer all the emails I get individually, here are five things every college student should start doing before his or her senior year.
Use Twitter to establish relationships
This is the easiest thing in the world to do. For example, if you want to be a planner or strategist, find planners and strategists to follow (hint: you can start with @garethk, @saneel, @mikearauz, @faris, @andjelicaaa). Pay attention to what they talk about and share. See who influences them. Look for ways to engage. Share links that will add value to their conversations. Or simply get smart by understanding what they consider to be trends and content worth paying attention to. Don’t pitch them or ask for favors. Prove yourself first. Five years ago you wouldn’t be able to get 10 minutes of their time without a major effort. Today you have an open invitation to connect. Take advantage of it.
Build something (or at least say something)
It goes without saying that the first thing many prospective employers will do is “Google” you. They’ll look at the content you’ve generated, explore your online presence, and see who you interact with. Other than looking at your creative portfolio that is the surest way for them to see what you’ve done. So at the minimum establish an online presence. (That doesn’t mean Facebook.) Create something original and put it out there. It can be a blog, video content, Twitter stream, or an original website or service. Demonstrate that you know how to use all the new tools available to you. Finally, as far as your blog goes, do something more than simply post things you’ve discovered or found amusing. Too many students simply share or report rather than develop a voice and a point of view. The latter is harder, but it will help you stand out.
Challenge people you respect
You can kiss ass all you want. And that may actually flatter some people, but no one I’d ever want to work for. I would much prefer you challenge me. Call me out. Disagree. Interestingly, after a week of talking, teaching, and lecturing at University of Oregon, I saw lots of posts that reported back what I had to say, but not one that claimed I was full of shit, or only got it half right, or neglected to acknowledge certain key facts, or presented only one side of an argument. I’m not suggesting you be a pompous ass or disrespectful when you’re challenging people you may want to work for some day. But my guess is the best of the best will welcome and respect an opposing view. It shows courage. (That’s another quality employers might want.)
Offer your valuable services
You have more to offer right now than you think. You have access to dozens, if not hundreds, of students and Gen-Yers, both of whom are coveted as consumers. I bet you could easily find an agency, a planning director, or a client who’d love access to those students and what they’re thinking. Why not offer your services as a researcher, a planner, or a videographer? Find an agency with clients who are interested in the community in which you live and see if there’s a way in which you can provide insights or content. The initiative you get to show and the opportunity it might offer for you to take on a project and generate content would both demonstrate that you have those desirable qualities mentioned above.
Write for TheNextGreatGeneration.com
OK, this is a plug for a Gen-Y blog that I incubated last year. But there’s value in having your content and writing be more visible than you can make it yourself. And there’s also advantages to finding a tribe of like-minded young journalists, SoMe types and creatives who can all help each other develop their skills and make introductions. Mullen has hired at least four or five students who used TNGG as a platform from which to showcase their talents. And a number of others students who wrote or edited for the blog found the experience paid off with both increased confidence and in some cases job offers. There are other options out there that offer the same kind of benefits — experience, community, connections.
The lines everywhere are blurring. Between brands and customers. Between media and readers. Between professionals and amateurs. Why not between students and employers? College kids these days have more opportunities than ever to reach into the world that awaits.The ambitious ones are taking advantage of them.
Photo by Jack Liu
They should search "marketing" on Yelp and Google Maps. If the company isn't on Yelp and Google Places they probably aren't good at marketing.
Great topic Edward. I am always impressed by students that reach out to me and request an interview. I like the students who tell me they are going to be in Atlanta and would be happy to stop in at my convenience. This takes no small amount of courage. You never know what type of person will show up even after reviewing their on-line portfolio. If the student has additional photography skills or has some real talent with a video camera, including editing and iMovie, this is just another reason to put a check in the "Reasons to Hire" column. One final note-I hope this is not to off topic. I have hired over 60 interns or entry level employees in my many years in advertising and the fact is you NEVER know if they are going to work out...EVER. It takes atleast 3 months before they are comfortable enough to be themselves. We can typically tell in the first thirty days. Past HR consultants have convinced us to use Myers Briggs and every other damn personality test you can give. We have not had much success with any of it. They have a hard time measuring passion! Like most employers, I believe in the kid that works late or comes in early. The one that does not roll his eyes at having to go back to Office Depot and pick up some supplies. Some people call this paying your dues. I use it as a way to find out more about the personality I am dealing with. The upside is they get to touch every department at the agency. They can be working with our web developers one day and going to a new business pitch the next and finally sit in on a brainstorimg session with the creatives. They bring a fresh view to all departments that we would be foolish to dismiss just because they lack experience. I am looking forward to all the possibilities that will be coming my way soon.