The Ultimate 21 Point Checklist for Recent Grads to Land a Job Using New Media
We've seen the transition happening slowly over the past few years. But at this point, job searching and hiring through new media is a pretty well accepted practice. For recent college graduates, there's a number of ways you can use new media to your advantage.
But before you start scrolling, let me provide you with a little disclaimer: new media doesn't make job searching any easier.
If anything, it forces you to be constantly working on building and improving your personal brand and managing the job search on a number of fronts. So in a way, job searching today is actually more of a challenge. But on the bright side, you can stand out far beyond your competition if you do things right. Through both experience and conversations with hiring managers, I've compiled a list of 21 checklist items that you can use to help secure a job in the PR, marketing or social media fields.
21. Develop a Plan
Although this is more of a traditional practice, having a plan has never been more important. As you embark on your search and take advantage of some (or all) of these tips, you'll find yourself falling off the track unless you mentally stay focused. Ask yourself questions that can help you work towards goals. What type of job are you looking for? What is your dream company? At which age do you realistically feel you should be making $60,000? What type of corporate culture are you looking for? Are you planning to do your master's? The answers to these types of questions are going to directly affect which jobs you apply, where those jobs are located, etc. I know that beggars can't be choosers, so you may be willing to take anything right now, but by keeping that plan in the back of your mind, you can stay focused now and in the future.
20. Daily and Weekly Benchmarks
Too little time, so much to do. Since most graduates are scrambling to find a job as soon as possible, it can be a quite overwhelming time period. Setting bite size goals can be much more manageable. This sets daily expectations and gives you guideline on what you need to accomplish each day to keep going. For example:
- Send out 10 LinkedIn requests
- Follow 20 relevant Twitter handles
- Send out five resumes
- Request one informational interview
- Write one blog post
Block out time each day to work on job searching. Once you've finished your tasks, let yourself "unplug." This is important because job searching, especially when using new media, can seem like a 24/7 project. By committing yourself to job searching tasks for certain time periods, you can relax outside of that window. It keeps your body and brain refreshed and helps you avoid getting discouraged if the job responses aren't coming in just yet.
19. Keep Track of Everyone You Meet
As you immerse yourself into job searching, you are bound to forget who you met and where. And no one wants to bump into a VIP at a mixer and not be able to recall a past conversation. A Google Drive spreadsheet should be sufficient. With every person you meet, simply indicate his/her name, company, title, contact information, where you met, when and any other notes that may help you in future conversations. Although you can't get from one contact to another as quickly, you can also use the "relationship" tab in LinkedIn to indicate where you met a contact and any past conversations you've had. This type of information can come in handy if you are applying for jobs and notice that you've communicated with a hiring manager before.
18. Download and Use Job Searching Apps
You're probably using some of these already. But mobile job searching apps are a no-brainer when looking for jobs. There are a number of options out there. Find the one(s) that work best for you and your profession. Some of the more popular ones include:
Make sure to check your app daily. They make it easy for job seekers to quickly apply, which in turn, makes the number of applicants rapidly grow. Make sure yours is one of the first to arrive. And follow directions. If it asks for a cover letter. Send a cover letter. If it requires writing samples, send writing samples.
17. Create Your Personal Brand
The top professionals in our industry have strong personal brands that extend from site to site. First, take time to write your professional bio. You should write a short one for sites that limit your character amount (like Twitter) and then a standard bio for sites with longer or no limits (like LinkedIn or Google+). Take time to carefully develop messaging that portrays you and the type of industry you're looking to work in. Have a professional headshot taken (can be fun and relaxed, but still should be professional). Finally, make sure everything is consistent across all your sites. Most people are visual. They will remember your face more so than your name. If they see your headshot on LinkedIn, maybe they'll remember tweeting with you. Create profiles on several social media platforms and ensure you are using the same headshot, banner image, bio, links, etc.
16. Maintain Professionalism
If it's on the web, you are never truly private. According to Career Builder, more than two in five hiring managers who research candidates via social media said they have found information that has caused them not to hire a candidate, up 9% from last year. What's crazy is that it is totally within the applicant's control. Digital marketing is all about the web and all about transparency. You can't apply for a job in PR or marketing and expect hiring managers to not have checked your social media pages. And they aren't looking at just LinkedIn (the site you're okay with them seeing). They are looking at Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and more. Don't rely on privacy settings either because there are always loopholes. Clean it up and you'll be comfortable with (and rooting on) hiring mangers to review your sites.
15. Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk
You cannot apply for a social media related position and only have experience with Facebook and Twitter. That puts you on the same level as 500 million other people, including your grandmother. You must become well-versed on as many social media and digital communication platforms as possible. Download. Create accounts. Test them out. Be confident in how they operate and what the target audience looks like for each channel. You'll likely be asked in an interview if social platforms are worthwhile to invest in. This is where it becomes critical that you understand each channel and relate how a business can put them to use. Saying that SnapChat is cool and popular won't help much. Pulling a stat out of your hat that says that businesses that take advantage of SnapChat are seeing X% growth in sales from the Millennial market is valuable.
14. Create a Personal Website
If a hiring manager tweets you and asks: "Can you send me some info about yourself so I can see your social media experience?" You can't tweet him/her 10 times with the URLs of the many different social media sites that you use. Instead, sending along one website where that person can find your other social channels is perfectly acceptable. It's great to have a place where you can easily direct peers, potential partners or hiring mangers with everything they need to know about you. It can also give you the opportunity to be creative, showcase your writing samples and portfolio, your blog writing, and more. Some examples of personal website services include:
Keywords, when carefully used, can still play a role in helping populate the rankings in search engines and the results in popular social media sites. You must be strategic in the keywords that you use in your online bios, your work experience details, your website's content pages, etc., to help your listings appear towards the top. One tip is to use a wordcloud generator. Pull a handful of job descriptions from positions that you're after. Throw those descriptions into a wordcloud generator and see what the top keywords are that are used to describe those positions. Take some into consideration. Be cautious though. You don't want to sound generic. You must also incorporate unique language to make yourself stand out. But common keywords can potentially help your profiles appear earlier when hiring managers are searching for candidates.
12. Learn Software
As a consumer, you might use a lot of different native social media platforms. But as a professional, you'll likely find yourself using third party software to help curate content, streamline scheduling, assist with promotion, track your progress, and report on success. By having a working knowledge of these software, you can continue to stand out from the pack and give yourself some incredibly important knowledge to drop during interviews. Some popular and important tools include:
11. Twitter Lists
You might be only following a couple hundred people now. But as you begin job searching, your Twitter count will likely grow exponentially. It's hard to stay sane unless you keep organized. Twitter lists are one of the best ways to do this. This classic Twitter tool lets you group users together, and view those feeds individually. For example, you can create a list for "Agencies," "PR Rockstars," "Marketing Conferences," and "Local Professionals." You can also create a list for "Places I've Applied" or "Companies I'd Like to Work For." For the latter two, make sure you set those lists to private so other Twitter users can't see which members are in the lists. Check your lists daily and be sure to engage with those members.
10. Twitter Chats
Twitter chats are a popular way to meet fellow industry professionals and come together to discuss relevant topics. Chats, at least the popular ones, take place at the same time every week. Do some research to find ones that interest you based on the jobs you're looking for. Then sign onto Twitter at those times, introduce yourself, and dive into the conversation based on the moderator's questions. Make sure to RT and fav tweets you like to engage with peers in the field. And most importantly, don't forget to follow and list people you've interacted with. Here's some Twitter chats you could be participating in on a regular basis:
- #agencychat, Fridays at 2 p.m.
- #blogchat, Sundays at 9 p.m.
- #journchat, Mondays at 8 p.m.
- #contentchat, Mondays at 3 p.m.
- #mobilechat, Wednesdays at 9 p.m.
- #pr20chat, Tuesdays at 8 p.m.
- #smchat, Wednesdays at 1 p.m.
9. LinkedIn Profile
Your LinkedIn profile is often the first place that hiring mangers turn to learn more about you, beyond your resume and cover letter. This page is not only an extension of your resume but a snapshot of your entire professional makeup. Include your professional headshot and bio, your contact information, work history with more extensive job descriptions and details, portfolio pieces, awards, volunteer ventures, and more. The more comprehensive, the better. Leave off anything that is irrelevant though. And don't forget to ask past employers, partners and former professors to give you recommendations. Though LinkedIn has been pushing the endorsement feature in recent years, recommendations are still a powerful way to have a third party describe your great personality and/or top skills.
8. Join LinkedIn Groups
LinkedIn has its own network where professionals communicate and learn from one another. These groups get like-minded people interacting, asking questions and forming relationships. Make sure to join groups that fit your profession and goals. By doing so, you can more quickly see new job opportunities that are posted and potential meet hiring managers. Start with your alumni and local groups and then find others that fit your professional interests. Here's some groups on LinkedIn you might want to join and start participating in:
- Digital Marketing
- Public Relations and Communications Professionals
- Intelligent Social Media
- Social Media Marketing
- PPC Marketing
7. Read....A Lot!
Much of the knowledge and skills that today's digital marketers and PR professionals use aren't things they've learned in school. Instead, they taught themselves and have learned on the job. There is plenty of reading material and research out there for you to start studying to get up to speed. There's even certifications available to earn you credibility. Consider using an RSS feed to skim headlines quickly. Block out time each morning to browse through an app like Feedly so you can stay in-the-know with the top trends in the industry. Here's some great publications and blogs you'll want to read on a regular basis:
Although the job search environment has almost completely transitioned to electronic communication, the resume is still vital for securing jobs. First, one often has to send resumes through email to a hiring manger or through an application system. Second, you need to have a hard copy when you attend interviews or job fairs. Include links to your website and/or LinkedIn page in your resume. And post your resume on your website and LinkedIn pages too. You want to make it extremely easy for recruiters and hiring mangers to find the info they need about you. Although the Word/PDF versions are necessary, it doesn't mean that you can't have another, more modern, version too. Digital resumes (or visual resumes) are becoming quite popular these days, letting applicants showcase their creativity, portfolio, social links and more. Some popular digital resume builders include:
5. Conferences and Events
Face to face communication is still extremely powerful - even in this age of technology. Thus, attending in-person conferences, mixers and events can get you face time with working professions and let you build your network. Always have business cards ready to hand out and don't forget to follow the people you meet on Twitter and LinkedIn later that day (or the next morning). National scale conferences can also offer great advice on new technology or discussions on better ways of doing your job. Write follow up blog articles on your findings and share them on social media. In addition to your local ad clubs, PRSA chapters, and AMA events, here's some examples of events you could attend:
4. Informational Interviews
Many digital marketing/PR agencies are often on the lookout for talented professionals. This is because clients often dictate if the company needs to rapidly expand. It's also because finding a new team member is a daunting task. Hiring managers need to find someone who is not only qualified but will fit well within the corporate culture (and this could be difficult). As a result, most hiring mangers are often open to meeting and learning who you are and if you might be an ideal fit for the future - even if they do not have openings at the moment. After establishing a connection over social, reach out and ask a fellow professional for a 15-minute chat over coffee (you buy the coffee). Get to know the person and his/her company and slide in a few great pointers about yourself. And bring your resume too! Informational interview are one of the best ways to take the relationship "off-line" with people in your network. The receiver will feel like they are providing value to you and might offer you advice, job openings somewhere else that he/she is aware of, or names to get in touch with. Don't forget to write a hand-written following up thank-you note for the time and help he/she provided you.
3. Blog like Crazy
Blogging might be the single best way to showcase your knowledge and skills. It allows you to be found more easily and more often too! Create a blog through Wordpress or Blogger and start blogging on a regular basis (minimum of twice per month) on a theme of your choice. If you are serious about finding a job, you'll keep your topics related to the field you're entering. Perhaps you do product reviews on the newest social media tools and apps. Maybe you do write-ups on software following product trials or demos. Or possibly you can do research and present enlightening statistics. If you have artistic skills, don't be afraid to supplement your posts with photography, graphics and infographics. These helps readers further understand your skills and it makes posts that much more shareable. If people share your posts on social media, always reach out and thank them. And be sure to mention your blog in interviews when talking about experience and your portfolio.
2. Create Boatloads of Content
Don't limit content creation to just blogging. Consider vlogs, animated gifs, quote graphics, e-newsletters, and photos. Upload Vines, create charts and graphs, record podcasts, share slide decks. Pin, post, tweet. It doesn't all have to be work-related, but it all should be professional and clean in nature. By producing content, you are giving your peers a reason to follow, share and interact. Although there are large volumes of people using social media, the reality is that a small percentage are actually content creators and the rest just watch, listen and take it all in. Be in the minority and be the one standing out. You'll get noticed and your peers and hiring mangers will have a reason to interact with you even before you reach out.
1. Connect, Connect, Connect
I've repeatedly heard people say that you shouldn't connect with others online who you've never met. I usually tell those people to climb out from behind their 1960s cubicle and get with the program. This is the age of social. It's perfectly acceptable to meet and connect with fellow professionals online, as long as you justify why you are reaching out. Do you share a similar LinkedIn group? Connect. Are you both alums of the same school? Connect. Are you both tweeting about an upcoming conference you're both attending? Connect. Find a reason and get in touch - whether that's through LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr - whatever. The larger your network, the more people you have at your disposal. Your network is going to be the building block to where you reach out for questions, advice, informational interviews, etc. And don't let it stop with just the "accept." Follow up and get to know these people. The more interactions, the stronger the relationship. And that's what turns into job opportunities.
Remember that job searching, even when using new media, isn't a short-term strategy. One should still plan on several months of effort, working towards your goal. However, following these guidelines will get you connecting with the right people, creating content that is likely to be seen by fellow professionals, and helping you build a more refined online brand that looks impressive in the eyes of hiring mangers.
Are you a working professional and have other job searching tips that are useful in this new media age? Feel free to comment below and offer recent grads some helpful hints.
To those reading this for advice on landing that next job...Happy Hunting!
Follow Thomas J. Armitage on Twitter