Going Pro: 5 Ways to Transition Your Social Media Presence from College to Career
Today we have a guest post from Clare Gillmore, the Program Manager of Boston University in Los Angeles, who oversees internship placements for about 200 students a year seeking an intro to the LA experience. With a background in TV production, marketing, and non-profit management, Clare greatly values relationships – both online and off – and believes that opportunity abounds if you know how to Google it. And she knows quite a bit about helping students transition successfully into to work world, as you’ll read below.
Social media is undeniably a major way of communicating these days. When you’re in college, it’s a way to find out what your friends are up to, view pictures of fun social activities, and hear what everyone think of classes, recent parties, and pop culture. As you start interacting in the “real world” via an internship or other professional opportunity, what might’ve been fine to share on social media while strictly interacting as a student will not necessarily serve you or your future career advancement. With that in mind, here are a few tips for taking your social media presence into the world beyond campus life.
1. To Post or Not to Post?
We’ve all heard the common sense warnings about excluding certain information from our social media. Untag yourself from pictures where you are drinking, etc. But everyone is entitled to a little vent session every now and then, right? Maybe not.
One glance at my college friend Jane’s MySpace profile back in the day would highlight her party escapades and voting preferences to the world. Eight years out of school, Jane now averages a 60-hour workweek, often calling me on the way to the office before I’ve left my house. Jane’s incompetent boss doesn’t treat her well and takes credit for her creative efforts. Seeking reassurance from understanding friends, a few weeks ago, Jane candidly vented about her boss online – nothing more than an excerpt of chat we’d already shared over happy hour. After all, Jane’s boss doesn’t have a Facebook account, and chances are zilch she’ll ever see this criticism.
But I read Jane’s post. Though I’ve known Jane for years and adore her, in the “real world” I didn’t put her up for a TV writer’s position recently because I couldn’t guarantee Jane wouldn’t vent about my contact online someday too. It’s not a risk I want to take.
2. Stay Positive
In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Baker concludes, “What I say about other people sticks to me — even when I talk to someone who already knows me.” Unlike in face-to-face conversation, negativity is amplified within social media and you can’t un-offend a listener. You also can’t be certain that a harmless comment posted in solidarity during your last semester isn’t going to sound silly when read out of context two years later.
Last fall one of our program participants living in student housing encountered the unfortunate challenge of a defective toilet. My colleagues and I immediately called maintenance – but not before Zach had blasted “Damn toilet never stops flushing! High class living ‘abroad’ in LA!” Though we’re not friends on Facebook, I received his updates because we share contacts. While we all empathized with Zach’s obvious inconvenience, he opted to voice his negative “feedback” publicly, leaving out our efforts to remedy the situation. What might’ve been viewed as normal, immature dorm room banter in college suddenly made Zach seem like a whiny, incapable adult.
3. Find Ways to be Helpful
Networking isn’t just about meeting people. It’s about adding value to someone’s life. When you’re just starting out as a young professional, it can be hard to think of yourself as an expert in anything. Yet I get calls all the time from senior managers pleading for “someone sharp to explain Pinterest to me”. Ask often and authentically, “What can I do for you? What do you need?” and remember that time, vigor – and an understanding of social media – are often on the side of youth. Even recent graduates can find ways to prove valuable to a busy executive.
The ability to research via social media is an incredible skill. My friend Mark was eager to work for an ad agency in Santa Monica, but knew he needed an “in”. He signed up for the company’s e-newsletter, followed them on LinkedIn, and joined their fan page. Immediately Mark began to get a feel for the company’s vibe and culture. He commented on milestones the company posted and retweeted info about their events. He even occasionally sent company executives FastCompany articles about how their competitors were staying ahead of industry shifts – and Mark never expected a response.
One day the company tweeted their need for a new assistant account manager. Since Mark had already exhibited genuine interest in their work, simply by sharing online research he innately acquired, he was a shoo-in for the role. Instead of posting to his network the typical recent graduate beg of “I need a job, folks!”, Mark proactively identified ways he could help a prospective employer.
4. Show Consideration
The best posts are thoughtful, short, consistent, and relevant. Your friends want to read something in their Timeline that is positive or insightful. Part of growing up is shaking the narcissism and empathizing with the lives of others. You can easily demonstrate awareness of the people in your social network by sharing mini anecdotes that are relatable.
It’s important to show consideration for a person whose help you need. Stacey is an alumna who runs an established production house where I’m always hoping to place interns. I also happen to think Stacey’s a great human being and know she hosts a hilarious comedy show on Saturday nights. During the day Stacey is swamped, but imagine how quickly Stacey responds to my personal tweets about her show, which she often follows quickly with answers to my work-related emails. By recognizing Stacey as a person with a variety of daily challenges and aspirations (just like me!), I strengthen our connection.
5. Express Thanks
Social media is your chance to publicly acknowledge someone who gave you his or her time and expertise. In college, you’re essentially paying professors to care about you, but in the real world, no one owes you a thing.
So please, tweet a thank-you to your mentor after lunch. Follow through on putting your classmate in touch with your cousin’s PR firm on LinkedIn. Demonstrate appreciation for a professional’s insight by liking her blog post.
This week two of our students tweeted about how much fun they had at a special 70mm screening of 2001 Space Odyssey, and The Academy who hosted the event responded with free tickets to Spartacus. I can’t speak for you, but I personally like free movies.
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