When Lindsey Pollak, spokesperson for LinkedIn, expert on career and workplace trends, and bestselling author of Getting from College to Career, began her workshop at F&M Wednesday, she did so rather unconventionally: by simply thanking the attendees for showing up.
“Recently, I spoke at Princeton and my talk happened to coincide with the second presidential debate, and almost nobody showed up,” Pollak said. “So I’m so happy to see real, live people in front of me.”
Pollak interjected other humorous elements and anecdotes throughout her talk, which made her specialized session surprisingly enjoyable. Pollak’s talk focused on ways students can use social media to achieve professional goals, explained students’ need to determine which social media sites will be most helpful to them in achieving their career goals, and hinted at the best ways to develop their presence on those sites.
The major social media networks—Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Pinterest—can be used by students and recent graduates when they are looking for full-time jobs, internships, freelance work, applying to graduate school, and looking for other opportunities.
Pollak emphasized the importance of finding a niche within the vast social media landscape. Many industries, companies, and graduate programs concentrate their energies on developing a few specific social media sites rather than all of them. It is vital for students to know which sites their industries of choice use in order to develop their presence on the same sites and connect with recruiters and professionals through them.
Pollak stressed students need a professional online presence in addition to a traditional resumé as companies are placing greater priority on social media presence. She explained students are missing an opportunity to develop their careers if they are not using social media sites professionally.
“Recruiters see the young generation as a way to tap into social media and assume that you are using it and knowledgeable about it,” Pollak said. “We’re still early enough in the social media game that you can stand out tremendously by using social media in a smart and professional way, so get on it early.”
Students and young graduates can also use social media to differentiate themselves from other applicants by using creativity.
“You can differentiate yourself based on the story you tell, the depth of your interests, and your ability to articulate that in writing and visuals,” Pollak said. “Use the show-don’t-tell philosophy for social media. For example, post photos of you volunteering, rather than just writing on a resume that you have volunteered. Convince the recruiter that if they hire you, you will be the right person for the job — someone who doesn’t just come to work, but is excited to learn about the industry.”
Pollak heavily discussed the benefits of LinkedIn, the largest professional social media network with 175 million members, and, according to Pollak, the best social media site for developing careers and job networks. She recommended students read the profiles of people they admire to get a sense of the best way to develop their LinkedIn profiles.
“You essentially have a database of the personal brand of 175 million people just waiting to be looked through,” Pollak said. “Use other people’s profiles for inspiration.”
Pollak also told students to join LinkedIn groups strategically. Many recruiters, internship programs, grad schools, and alumni groups have LinkedIn groups open for anyone to join, giving members invaluable information about what is happening within the organization. It also helps students keep up with the activities of organizations they have an interest in joining.
While Pollak explained LinkedIn is the best place for people to share their work experience and connect individually with other professionals, she urged students to think of Twitter as a way to connect with all their future prospects and easily keep up with their activities. She recommended students follow the organizations they are interested in joining in the future, like scholarship programs, graduate schools, internships, and companies.
“Think of Twitter as your own personal future newsfeed,” Pollak said. “Following a group on Twitter lets you understand why it is different and special from other similar groups and why you would be a good fit for that group. When you walk into a job interview, their Twitter has been like a personal prep sheet of what they want you to know about their organization.”
She also suggested students follow people whose careers they admire so they will be able to learn what they care about and what recent developments are happening in their industry. Pollak acknowledged this process can be time-consuming, but said the time students put into doing this research will give them a huge advantage over others who have not taken advantage of the information available to them through social media.
“Knowing this information also helps you decide if a certain career is right for you,” Pollak said. “If you’re following a company on Twitter and thinking its tweets are boring you, then you’re probably not going to want to work there.”
Overall, Pollak urged students to view social media as a way to network with the best experts in their chosen fields, keep up with different industries, and learn as much as possible about them before fully entering the job market.
“If someone posts something on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook I view it as an opportunity,” Pollak said. “Social media is one tool among many to help you develop the amazing careers that lie ahead of you.”
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