College is a beginning. It is a time and place to begin to learn who you are, what you want and what is possible. College is also a place that the institution can teach you a lot, but what you learn yourself is even more important.
College taught me how to take tests about things I can’t for the life of me remember now in classes I couldn’t possibly see as relevant to my degree.
Yet what my college did not directly teach me, that I learned on my own, was balance. I had a full load, was on the dance team, participated in the theatre and worked a part time job. I had to learn how to balance all those things in eventually earning that degree.
It is also a place that, for many, will serve as the last step before entering the “real world” – after graduation getting that “real” job.
Although many universities and colleges have career centers to help you with that task – and they are wonderful, take them up on all the help offered, there is also something you need to learn in order to help yourself: marketing.
Before you graduate you need to begin to market yourself because once you are out in the ‘real world’ you are going to be thrust into sales. You are the product and the company. You have to learn to sell yourself to potential employers and pretty much anyone in a business sense that you meet in order to secure a position. That last part is called networking.
There are two important component to sales: the pitch and the means.
Let me tell you a little secret: that degree is not the most important part of what you have to offer a potential company. It is a benefit of the larger product: you. You as a whole, your potential and what you bring to the table comprise the whole package of your product. That is what you need to learn to sell.
This is your pitch.
What makes you different that all the other graduates out there? You are not only competing with them, you are competing with people who have already been out there in the real world, so you are going to have to learn how to step up on pitching the goods.
What do you have to sell? Again, not just the degree – but how you got it. What activities were you in, how did you participate, what did you do, how did you interact with people and how did it benefit or provide value for the group? This is the basis of your pitch.
Working a part time job: learning to balance priorities, in the part time job it couldhave been customer service, problem solving, conflict resolution, team work – there is a host of skill that you learned.
Being an athlete: again, learning to balance priorities, team work, dedication, setting and achieving goals, serving as a leader – not just the performance, but what you brought to the practice and games.
Extracurricular activities: you guessed it – balance; working as a group, coming up with ideas or plans, implementing those plans, working on a team, accomplishing goal, speaking in front of groups, persuading, critical thinking, problem solving, conflict resolution – skills developed in the interactions and work done for the purpose of the group.
Now that you have an idea of how to sell yourself for the whole package – skills, abilities, accomplishments and degree – where are you going to broadcast that message? One of the most important avenues of broadcast is LinkedIn.
Think of it as a business Facebook – without the pictures of parties, food or shenanigans. It is how people find out about you. When you meet someone and kinda-sorta might be interested in them, what do you do?
Most go to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or other social medias to find out more about that person. Tada – instant snapshot of them and their life. What do they like, what are they like, those pictures and posts tell a story and it helps you make a decision if you want to try to get to know that person a bit more.
That is the same concept of LinkedIn but on a business level. LinkedIn is where you list your degree (or soon to be earned degree), interests and tell a story of who you are, what you have to offer and what you are looking for in a job.
Method to the Means
The summary section is most critical. This is where you get to tell your story. Crafting this will also help you on an interview because almost every interview you will ever have will start with some version of one statement: tell me about yourself.
With LinkedIn, this is not a formal interview, this is a conversation. A one-on-one conversation with the people you want to read your profile. Facebook is for everyone and their mother to read if you are public, LinkedIn as public is geared toward the people you want to read it – your audience.
Think of sitting in some foo-foo coffee house and the person you want to read it (a hiring manager from a specific industry firm) is sitting across from you and they say, “So, recent college graduate or soon to be, tell me about yourself?”
What do you say?
Not, “I will be earning my degree in XYZ in 20XX.” They know that. They are asking about YOU in an informal and business manner. What is the most important thing you want them to know about you?
What is going to get their attention? What will demonstrate you know how to balance priorities, can communicate well with a group, are coachable, dedicated to getting a job done? Is anything said above starting to ring a bell?
That’s right – bring in your entire college experience, but remember, bring in you. You could begin with something like, “I have always had a fascination with words. My grandmother was an avid reader and I learned by listening to her read and later reading Nero Wolfe, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. I loved how the words could create such great images in my head and get me hooked on the mysteries. I knew then that I wanted to learn to use words to create experiences for people. It is why I chose PR. “
Then you could talk about balancing all the things you did and what you learned from them.
Or you could begin with something more along the lines of “Growing up on a farm I am used to hard work.” Then bring that into the same hard work, dedication and working as a team that allowed you to be successful in class and on the field or court.
LinkedIn allows you more of a platform to create your brand. Why is this important – because this is where recruiters go to find you. According to an article in Kimberlee Morrison in Adweek (September, 2015):
92% of recruiters surveyed use social media as part of their process.
87% are using Linkedin
55% are using Facebook
47% are using Twitter
One last thing – the other social media. They will check that.
If I see a wonderful LinkedIn profile and meet with a candidate who tells me that they are very responsible I am going to verify. I will check your other social media posts. If I see whiny rants on Twitter about how hard school is or unfair the professors are giving you too much or party pictures on Facebook posted at 2 am on a Tuesday – that will not demonstrate responsibility.
Your social media is fair game in evaluating you as a candidate. Make sure the other places match up with what you are trying to sell.
Now, your homework is to get to it! Start crafting your sales pitch now, get out there on LinkedIn for them to find and start lining up the interviews before you graduate!
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ABOUT THE GUEST BLOGGER
Lisa K. McDonald is a Brand Strategist and founder of Career Polish, Inc., a national branding and career coaching firm. She leverages expertise as an Executive Resume Writer and Career Coach to help professionals free themselves from a boring corporate existence and into careers they truly desire. She is a frequently requested speaker and author with a passion for spreading her message to all professionals: you are not your title!