New graduates face an increasingly competitive job market that requires more than a college education and one or two work experiences. As an educator, I’ve spent 25 years teaching more than 1,000 students how to build their personal brand; once considered “nice to have,” it’s now expected that graduates can succinctly explain what differentiates them from other job applicants and makes them the ideal candidate.
Twenty-five years ago, a new graduate could take a year or two to acquire the skills they needed because employers expected that they would learn as they went along. Social media has radically changed that. Data on everything and anything is now available 24/7 and job candidates are expected to come to an interview armed with knowledge and information about the company and connect the skills listed on the job application with their personal brand.
Here are Three Tips to Get You Started:
1. If there is anything on your Facebook page you’d be embarrassed to have your grandmother see, take it down before you start the interview process. Rinse and repeat on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. The first thing that a recruiter or HR manager will do is look you up on Facebook. According to a 2011 WordPress article, 70% of hiring managers rejected candidates based on what they found, so proceed with caution.
2. LinkedIn is now considered the stamp of legitimacy in any job search so make sure you have a complete and professional profile. Ideally, you should have a minimum of 250 connections and at least 1 recommendation. If, after 4 years in college, you haven’t found a single person who will vouch for you, you have a bigger issue to address.
LinkedIn makes it easy to find alumni who work at the company you’re interested in and it’s the reason I remind students to connect with each other and other graduates from their program throughout their college career. You will then graduate with a pre-qualified network of people who will be much more likely to make an introduction and can give you an insider’s view on what it’s really like to work at a company.
This is not Facebook so don’t post that “can you believe it’s me” picture of you on Spring break and make sure you don’t downplay your skills. It may feel strange to “sell yourself” but what you leave out could make the difference between getting a job offer and being passed over. What you post also gives you talking points during an interview which makes it easier to stay on topic. Your LinkedIn summary should be no more than 3 short paragraphs and highlight job-related skills. The future of work is moving towards entrepreneurial companies with diverse teams across the world so recruiters are looking for leadership skills, travel and abroad experience and the ability to work well in teams. It’s more important than ever to include the results you’ve achieved along with the skills that made it possible.
It doesn’t matter if your summer job has nothing to do with your career goal; talk about a workaround you came up with that helped customers at the coffee shop in your home town or how you made a child’s summer experience memorable.
3. Do your research and don’t just Google a company 15 minutes before your interview. Spend the time to review a company’s website, check out their blog and their social media feeds to learn as much as you can about them. Facebook is a treasure trove of information, where you can learn everything from how the company was founded, to causes it supports. You should be ready with insightful questions and talk to company traits that you connected with. After all, isn’t that the reason you want to work there?
After each interview, you’ll want to send a follow up thank you email within 3-5 days. I always remind students to mention why they’re excited about the position and the company. Passion is one thing that new graduates typically have in spades but often forget to highlight because they don’t realize that it’s an asset.
A personal brand helps you cut through the noise and quickly identify how your experience and skills fit the company you’re hoping to work for. As the demand for qualified job candidates increases, so do your chances that you’ll be selected.
Orly has been running messaging workshops since 2007 and speaks frequently on personal branding and related topics. To book Orly for your next conference: http://zeewy.com/about/speaking/speaking-request/