Six steps for cultivating a career in the digital age

Students: Be proactive and prepare for The Hunger Games

(Photo: Johan Larsson on Flickr)

William Johnson is coordinator, off-campus outreach and engagement at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ont. where he’s responsible for event management, student engagement and communications.

When I speak to students about career development and social media, I want them to take away that they need to be proactive if they want to increase their chances of post-graduate career success. In 2012, there are far too many university graduates annually for current students to put off thinking about their post-grad life until the day after their convocation. If you want to make a smooth transition from pupil to professional, you must constantly be seeking ways to set yourself apart from the cohort.

1. Realize you’re still a hot commodity

You need to recover the pride and excitement you had when you were first accepted to university. While recent public sentiment might suggest that the degree is losing its value, there are over 600,000 more jobs for graduates in May 2012 than pre-2008 recession (a sharp increase in employment prospects). Despite this increase, employers are still paying individuals with degrees premium wages, according to Statistics Canada and the Boudarat, Lemieux and Riddell study. A university degree may not be for everyone, but higher employability and income can almost certainly be the result for everyone obtaining one.

2. Prepare for The Hunger Games

The ultimate worth of post-secondary education is no secret. As a result, university enrolment, and therefore, the number of annual Ontario graduates has increased significantly—by about 50 per cent between 2001 and 2009, according to the Council of Ontario Universities. This means that competition in the job market is almost Hunger Games-like—that’s my way of saying incredibly intense. It means you have to be very strategic in your job hunt.

3. Understand how recruiters and hiring managers work

The social web has become central to organizations’ recruitment strategies. Websites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have become increasingly effective as tools for managing your career. In a recent Jobvite survey on social recruiting, 92 per cent of respondents indicated their organization is using social media to support recruitment efforts. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to undergraduates, but what is interesting is the impact seeing a social profile has on recruiters’ consideration of candidates.

4. Use your head on the web

What you put on your online profiles will not only affect what hiring managers think of you, but also confirm or counter things you claim in your resume. If your resume says you’re a great writer but your tweets are riddled with poor grammar and spelling, an employer may think twice about trusting other qualifications you claim to have. Consider this: Sixty-nine per cent of organizations surveyed by Reppler (a social media monitoring firm) said they have rejected a candidate based on what they saw about them online.

5. Know what employers are really looking for

In the same Reppler survey, a majority of employers said they hired a candidate because of what they saw about them on a social networking site. Employers like to see creativity, good references and a positive impression of a candidate’s professional qualifications and organizational fit. Basically, employers are looking for a balance: someone with the right capabilities who will also mesh well within the company culture.

6. Get on LinkedIn already

LinkedIn, arguably the professional network of record for most hiring managers, is the perfect tool for undergraduates to market themselves. There are two key reasons why I think this.

Firstly, your LinkedIn profile allows you to put your traditional resume online, where it’s easy to find. Profiles feature prominently in search results, and this gives you the opportunity to control peoples’ first impression of you. LinkedIn also allows you to include information that you wouldn’t have space for on your paper application like causes you support, links to projects, publications, reading lists, and more.

Secondly, it allows you to feature recommendations from your connections—colleagues, past managers, external associates, subordinates or other professionals. These are key to establishing your credibility online. In the same way that we would trust an endorsement for a product from a third party over one from the company producing it, an employer will appreciate hearing what someone else who has worked with you has to say about your talents and temperament.

If you’re looking for more reasons to join LinkedIn or ways to use it, check out what Miriam Salpeter, The Undercover Recruiter, Lindsey Pollak and Guy Kawasaki have to say.

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