Category Archives: Digital Networking

9 ways to jumpstart your job search over winter break WITHOUT networking

kai is sad because santa didn't give her presents

You probably know the holidays are a great time to network. I’ve even written about why. But I also know what you’ve just been through. A week of all-nighters, cramming for exams and eking out term papers. The last thing you probably want to do is head home and start setting up informational interviews.

So, instead, here are nine easy (read: online) things you can do to avoid underachiever’s guilt and get your parents off your back. Happy holidays from me to you 😉

  1. Add this semester’s classes and accomplishments to your resume.
  2. While you’re at it, update LinkedIn.
  3. Write down one great story from the semester that you could use in an interview.
  4. Subscribe to five career-relevant blogs.
  5. Upload your best assignments to SlideShare or Scribd.
  6. Find 10 career-relevant people to follow on Twitter.
  7. Not on Twitter? Get on Twitter.
  8. Start a gratitude journal.
  9. Identify three people to ask for informational interviews next semester. (Hey, I didn’t say networking wasn’t part of the plan; I just said you don’t have to do it now.)
Image credit: sandwichgirl

From a grad that’s been there and landed a job: Navigating online job postings

A guest post from UNC-CH graduate Courtney Miller.

Searching for job postings on the Internet should never be your ONLY job hunting activity. Jobs posted online usually receive many applicants due to ease of access. Even if you have stellar qualifications, it may be difficult to make yourself stand out among other recent graduates.
Most of the interviews I got were a result of direct contacts I made through networking, including the job I currently hold. I applied for nearly 100 jobs online. Out of the jobs I applied for online, I was offered the opportunity to interview at eight of those places and actually interviewed at six. I was offered a position at two, and neither would be considered full-time gigs. With that being said, I’m going to offer some advice to maximize job searching online.

  • Get advice and tips from alumni and professionals in your field on where to find postings. When you engage in networking activities with alumni or professionals in your industry, ask which Web sites are good to check for job searches. They may have some good insider-specific Web sites that aren’t widely publicized, which means less competition for you. If possible, try to join a local chapter of a professional organization. Many professional organizations offer exclusive online job postings.
  • Watch out for scams/fraudulent job postings. If a job posting sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Anything that reads, “Work from home and make $100,000 a month,” probably isn’t legit. Job scams are abundant on Web sites like Careerbuiler.com, where any organization can post. If you see a posting from a company you’ve never heard of, check out the company’s Web site before you waste your time applying. If the Web site isn’t current or seems fishy, there may be a reason. You may also want to try typing in the name of the company and the word “scam” in the Google search box to see what comes up.
  • Consider moving the geographic location you want to find a job. If you want a job in New York City and your resume lists a Florida address, many employers will be weary of even bringing you in to interview. For jobs that have many qualified applicants, why would an employer pick a person who lives hundreds of miles away when there appears to be many qualified local candidates? In a down economy, employers don’t want to pay your travel or relocation costs. If you can’t afford to move to the city without a job, this blog suggests a few things to mention to get around this problem.
  • Social Media Postings. Set up a Twitter account and search for job Twitter accounts. Search by geographical location or industry. For example: DC Marketing Job Twitter: http://twitter.com/MktgJobsDC. Also there are blogs that track industry job openings. One of my favorites is the DC Public Affairs + Communications Job Blog. I didn’t have as much success on Facebook; however I did know a lucky person who got a job at CNN from a Facebook posting, so it might be worth a try.
  • Create RSS Feeds for Job Postings. Setting up an RSS can save you searching time and brings you the information instead of the other way around. This Web site has some really great tips on how to create an RSS Feed that suits your job searching needs.
  • Create Job Search Agents. Take the time to visit the Web sites of the organizations you would like to work at the most. Even if they don’t have job postings that you’re interested in right now, many have the option of setting up a search agent that will e-mail you as soon as a new posting that fits your parameters is created.

From a grad that’s been there and gotten a job: Advice on networking

Guest post from UNC-CH graduate Courtney Miller.

Every career counselor will tell you that networking is crucial to a job search, but it can be intimidating, especially for those of us who aren’t used to making conversation with perfect strangers. My approach to networking is to take it as a learning experience. Not all networking activities will lead to a job, but you can get great advice from someone who has been there.

Step One. Prepare an elevator speech.

One of the keys to job searching is letting people know you’re looking for a job. Having an elevator speech helps you do that; the speech tells someone who you are, what you’re looking for, and what your background is – all in the time it would take to ride an elevator. It doesn’t have to be an Oscar-winning monologue. It can be as simple as, “I graduated from UNC this past May and majored in Political Science. I did three internships in state congressional offices over the summers, where I improved campaign strategy and by researching voter demographics. I’m currently looking for a job on the campaign trail.” Make sure you come across as natural, enthusiastic and genuine.

The elevator speech should be tweaked depending on your audience. If you’re talking to someone you already know, then your elevator speech can be a lot less formal. For an interview, you’d also want to add what makes you stand out from other candidates and what you can contribute the company.

For more tips on elevator speeches:
Elevator Speech Dos and Don’ts
Writing Elevator Speeches
Job Search Elevator Speech

Step Two. Reach Your Existing Networks

Now that you just ran to the bathroom to prepare your elevator speech in front of the mirror, you’re ready to practice it. The best place to start is with people you already know. Give your parents, friends, and everyone else you know the elevator speech and ask them if they know anyone directly in your field. If they don’t, ask them to put feelers around for you with their co-workers and friends. Also, ask them to send around your resume. Think of it as a game of six degrees with Kevin Bacon. Someone you know knows someone that can help you; however, if you don’t let people know you’re looking for a job, then you’ll never meet that someone.

Step Three. Volunteer

Volunteer a few days a week at a place where you can use the skills you would want to use in a job. Many local United Ways or local governments have volunteer coordinators who are more than happy to help you find somewhere that you fit. For example, if you want to be a graphic designer, there are many non-profits or churches that could benefit from your services. Once you get there, take the initiative and use your expertise to make new suggestions or improvements. The experience will expand your network, give you references AND improve your resume. If you volunteer at a place where you would eventually like to work, you will get a chance to meet the hiring manager and the people who work there to determine a fit.

Again, make sure to let them know you’re looking for a job. You want to make these people think, “Wow, what will I do when he gets a real job and isn’t here to volunteer here anymore? I wish we could hire him full time!” You never know when volunteerism can lead to a full-time position if someone else leaves or if the money is available.

Also, check your community event calendar. Attending community events and meeting new people also can expand your network.

Step Four. Networking via Career Services.

UNC has a global network of alumni and a number of helpful career mentor volunteers. If you graduated from another university, check your career services department to find out if it has a similar feature. There is a general UNC Career Connection that is searchable by industry and location (http://careerweb.unc.edu/). Some professional schools, like the J-School and the B-School, have additional databases. Once you create a list of people based on organizations or locations where you would like to work, e-mail them and introduce yourself with your elevator speech.

Tell them why you thought they would be interesting picks. For example: you really liked the range of clients their companies serve, the areas they live in, or the industries they work in. Then ask if they have any advice about finding a job in said industry/area/organization. Try to schedule a phone conversation. Tell them you’re attaching your resume for their reference. After you speak with the person, don’t forget to follow up with a gracious thank you note. Use the conversations to learn what you can about working in the industry and job searching. Chatting about UNC basketball can’t hurt. If you really like the company the person works for, request an informational interview.

If you stick around on the radar screens of your new friends, they might think of you when something opens down the road. Regardless, you gained a friend and learned something at the same time.

Should you have business cards? (Hint: yes)

A reader wrote to me earlier in the week asking about business cards. She said,

I was curious if you’d ever written or researched anything about student business cards? UCS encourages them, but I’ve read mixed reviews online. What’s the communication field’s opinion of them? Have you used them in your own internship/job search? Are they really worth spending the money for?

The kind of cards she’s talking about are networking cards.

I have one, and they’re valuable for a few reasons, not the least of which being the confidence boost you get from having something to hand out. I speak from experience: I’ve been in a networking situation without a business card, and it is HIGHLY awkward when everyone else is exchanging and you’re not.

Other reasons are purely practical. It’s an easy way to exchange information with someone. You can also jot down notes on business cards about the person, which makes thank you notes and future networking endeavors go more smoothly.

What about content — what should you include on the card? They usually don’t list a title, but they do include:

  • Cell phone and e-mail. Denote cell phone with (c) or c., and please don’t write out “e-mail” — people are savvy enough now to know an e-mail address when they see one.
  • Web presence. Web site, LinkedIn, and Twitter and blogs (if you have them). Do consider your industry when including Twitter, though. Communications firms might be more open and even expect a Twitter listing, whereas more conservative industries (e.g. law, investment banking) might find it odd. And it goes without saying that your blog and/or Web site content should be professional if you’re going to include a link.
  • Your major and GPA. Tthe general rule is to include only 3.0 or better.
  • Your skills and your goals. These are best incorporated in a positioning statement.
  • What about your address? Irene Koehler at Almost Savvy says she doesn’t put her address on cards because so much work is done remotely now. For college students, it’s probably a waste of space because it’s likely your address will change (at least once) soon after graduation.

As far design goes, if you’ve used certain colors on your resume, use the same ones on the card for effective personal branding.

giles_BCYou can either design your own card (I did mine using Adobe InDesign) and upload it to be printed, or you can use a printing site that has design templates. Sites like VistaPrint and 123Print, with design and print capabilities, tend to be very affordable — like 250 cards for under $10 plus shipping. It pays to Google business cards and see who’s offering specials.

If you like the customized idea but are uncomfortable designing your own, you can try Moo cards, where you can upload  your own photos on the back of cards. Moo cards also come in a few sizes (the most popular is the MiniCard), which can help you stand out.

Although I think business cards will always be around (for confidence and personal branding), people are increasingly sending information digitally. Contxts has a system to do just that. I haven’t used it, but it lets you text your information to someone else and receive theirs. The info is automatically stored in a database. Pretty neat, and maybe a good addition to a business card (depending how tech-savvy the rest of the room is).

I’m a Web 2.0 success story!

I’m officially a Web 2.0 success story! You know the kind CNN has been talking about? I’m one of those!

As of Tuesday (5/26), I will be working as a social media strategist at the Durham-based company Optimal Resume. (If you’ve heard of it, maybe it’s because they handle UNC’s web-based resume service — and 400+ other schools’.) I’ll be tweeting, blogging and Facebooking about job-search strategies (sound familiar?) and helping people make the most of Optimal Resume.

I’d be lucky to have this job in any economy, but especially in this one. It matches my interests and skills, the company and environment are great, and I think I’ll be able to contribute and learn a lot.

So where does the Web 2.0 come in (aside from the job title)? Here’s a hint: even though Optimal Resume is based in Durham (where I’ve lived for the past two years), my connection to the company started in Maine.

Sherry Mason, a career counselor at Bowdoin College, introduced me to @OptimalResume on Twitter, which is really Optimal Resume’s COO, Dave McNasby. From there, we exchanged Twitter messages and set up a meeting. That was last Tuesday. Within a week, I became a proud Optimal Resume team member.

Now here’s the back story of how I met Sherry and why she introduced me to Optimal Resume.

When I joined Twitter in January, I was debating between going to law school and venturing into the real world — and my bio said so. I started tweeting what was on my mind, which included everything from law school essay topics to how I thought UNC’s Career Services could improve.

That’s how Sherry at Bowdoin found me. One day I tweeted that I thought UCS should teach personal branding, and she messaged me to ask what else I thought they should do.

A few days after I joined Twitter, I started this blog, and I asked Sherry for her input about content. As luck would have it, she not only helped with that, but as a former practicing lawyer, she talked with me about my law school decision. She’s one of the people who helped me decide it wasn’t for me.

Once that decision was made, Sherry and I kept in touch, tweeting and e-mailing occasionally, and one of those tweets was the introduction that landed me this job.

My story is a lesson in how it pays to be authentic and active in your social media use. Yes, I joined Twitter and started blogging because all the job-search articles said those were two keys to jump-starting a job search, but I didn’t blog and tweet what I thought employers wanted to hear, or just advertise that I needed a job.

I talked about things that interested me, things that were naturally on my mind, and I found a job (or a job found me, depending on which way you look at it) that matches.

For those of you who are worried about meaningless (maybe menial?) entry-level work, a Web 2.0 job search can be a great way to find an exciting, interesting job that fits your personality and goals. Just be authentic (within reason) and don’t try to be everything to everyone (that’s just good branding). At least that’s what I did, and it worked for me.

One thing: Create a Google profile

So you’ve Googled yourself recently and nothing relevant came up. Well, congratulations on at least having a clean slate. You’re not mistakenly associated with any criminals or adult actors, so you don’t have any battles to fight, just a solid presence to build. Google recently created a new tool to help you do that: the Google profile.

It takes less than 10 minutes to set up, and it gives you an entry on page one of “your name” search results (even if it is at the very bottom of the screen).

It’s similar to LinkedIn. You have a headline, a summary, a list of your interests and link to your various Web sites. (You can actually copy and paste sections of your LinkedIn profile, which is what I did.) You can’t, however, list work experiences or network through the site. It’s really just an identity claim and a Google entry. Nevertheless, take 10 minutes and give yourself your first or another Google entry — set up a Google profile today.

Note: You’ll need a Gmail address, but you should have one of those anyway.

Friday article round-up

Twitter was a treasure trove of links to helpful career-search articles this week. Let me share a few of the best with you (in no particular order — they’re all great). The writers of these articles are also my #followfriday picks.