As we head into a new year- and a new decade- there is a sense of renewed energy and ambition in the air. As you start building your new goals for 2010, it’s important to think not only about where you are at in your academic life and career search, but also where the rest of the world is headed- and how to adapt your job search strategies accordingly.
Below are my three predictions on what will change, and what they mean for you as you begin and continue to develop your personal brand.
1.) You’ll know about job openings faster – but that doesn’t mean they’ll be easier to get
There are numerous online tools out there for obtaining information at an increasingly fast rate. My guess is that you’ll be able to obtain such information even faster as time goes on. Many worthy job search tools- from Google Alerts to specific job board e-mails that let you know immediately when a company you are interested in posts a new opportunity- already allow you to access information about a company immediately after it goes up on the web.
But, just because you can get the information faster doesn’t mean the jobs are easier to land. In fact, the ease with which people can apply to jobs nowadays often makes it harder for you to get noticed when you are just a name at the top of a resume amongst hundreds- even thousands- of others.
There has always been one great way to get noticed- and it’s imperative that you do this now more than ever before: Build a strong network. Many of the contributors at studentbranding.com have written great posts on building a network: through professional organizations, your family and friends, and social networking sites such as Twitter.
The key point I’d emphasize here is that the best contacts aren’t always the most obvious ones. Sure, you can send a random e-mail off to the HR manager or the friend of a friend who works at the company you are interested in. But, the strongest people in your network are the ones who know you best and will work hard to help you get those opportunities. Tell as many people as possible about your search for a job- and be as specific as you can be. If you say to a friend or professor, “I’m looking for a job,” that isn’t nearly as effective as “I really want a starting position at an advertising agency or a research lab.” The more specific you are about what you want, the more relevant your job leads will be.
Another great tip: go to the Career Center at your college. Instead of asking the counselors for a list of alumni or corporate job openings, ask them if they know of any students on campus who have interned in a specific industry or at a particular company. It’s a lot easier to get a hold of a classmate than an HR manager – trust me on that one. Moreover, a classmate can provide you with the best insight on what it’s like to work in a starting position or as an intern at a company or in a general field. Your peers are some of the best and strongest contacts in your network. Start with them, build rapport, and ask them if they’d be willing to serve as a reference for you down the road.
2.) Your Digital Footprint is More Important than Ever
A few years back, I asked some of my college friends what they thought about the future of Facebook. Surprisingly, a good number of them told me that just like MySpace, they thought Facebook would lose its luster eventually- and that it would certainly become a less relevant part of their lives after college.
Of course, almost the exact opposite has happened. Facebook has grown even larger, with more of your professors, bosses, and parents joining every single day. And unlike many of my friends who asserted just a few years ago that they wouldn’t use it as much, Facebook is just as- if not more important- a tool for us recent graduates now than when we were still in college or grad school. Why? Because after you graduate, what better (and easier) way is there to stay in touch with friends we don’t see nearly as often?
Facebook- as well as LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.- will continue to play a huge role in each of our lives as the future unfolds. For better or worse, social media is here to stay and everyone is getting on the bandwagon. So you have a choice- you can either be part of the movement, or you can choose not to be involved at all. There’s nothing inherently wrong with choosing the latter. But know this: you are going to be at a significant disadvantage as you apply for jobs and build your network in the years to come.
You may not think it matters now, but if you are head to head with another potential hire in a few years, and the only difference is that you have 15 connections on LinkedIn and your competitor has 500, in what direction do you think that would tip an employer’s decision? If your competitor has built a strong following on Twitter, but you don’t even have an account, that tells a potential employer a really interesting story: that your competitor has more clout than you do when it comes to spreading information and gathering new ideas. While you may actually be the bigger influencer, perception is everything.
It’s never too late to start. Make it a goal to do something positive for your digital footprint each week, whether it is posting new content on your blog, updating your LinkedIn page, or writing engaging comments on well-known websites (make sure you are using a username that will appear if someone searches for you on Google).
3.) Bye-Bye, Paper
It kills me to say this, because I love print media- probably a lot more than the average person. But it’s going to happen. Maybe not in the next year, or next three years, but we gradually move toward a printless world a little more each day. Businesses that are either based on a print product (newspapers, magazines, books) or use print mediums to sell their core products (direct mail, catalogs, brochures, insert cards, coupons, etc.) are going to be making some serious changes.
But, this doesn’t mean that newspapers, books, magazines, sales materials, catalogs, junk mail, etc. won’t exist. Rather, what it means is that businesses are about to get real creative (because they have to) about how to market to you in a faster, more effective, more engaging way than all of their competitors. Don’t believe me? Here’s just one fascinating vision of how the magazine and advertising world may look in the very near future.
What does this mean? For you, the millennial, it means that the upper hand belongs to you. You are the first generation that has no idea what it was like to grow up in a world with no internet. You are the first generation to go through high school and college during the era of Facebook and Twitter. You understand social media and technology better than any other generation today. And for that reason alone, you will be an insanely worthy asset to any company in the next decade.
But the consequence is that in order to succeed, you have to demonstrate your web savvy- because you can bet that many of your peers will be doing so. Start building more of your personal brand online, whenever you can. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Create an online portfolio
- If you haven’t already, join Twitter. But before you do, figure out what you want to use it for. (Hint: It shouldn’t be a place for minute-to-minute updates on your personal life).
- Manage your Facebook page. Regardless of how well you control your privacy settings, if something is attached to your profile on Facebook (whether it’s a bad picture or inappropriate comment), it’s attached to you. Facebook is going to be a critical part of your brand going forward. Manage it carefully and strategically.
While it’s important to continuously build your personal brand, remember that it’s equally important to be ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding how the rest of the world will be working and branding itself in the years to come. That foresight will help you along the way as you figure out how to manage your personal brand, online and off.
Melissa is the Editor-in-Chief of studentbranding.com. She is also an Assistant Brand Manager at Time Inc. Home Entertainment, where she manages brand extension projects for numerous publications including: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, People, and Entertainment Weekly. Melissa majored in Psychology at Hamilton College and currently resides in New York City. To find out more, read her blog, follow her on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.