Today’s job numbers are enough to scare even the smartest, most ambitious job seeker. Increasingly, young people at all levels are feeling underemployed, if they’re employed at all.
Companies have myriad choices of whom to hire so you really have to stand out – and successful networking techniques can help.
Here are five ways that newbies can make their online persona networking-worthy:
- Check your social profile. You’ve heard it a million times and I’m sure you’ve already taken down all the incriminating photos from Facebook and tightened your privacy settings. But you need to go a step further and work on creating a positive social profile. The first step is to Google yourself, something you should do every couple of weeks to see what comes up. You don’t want to be a social nobody, so you need to make sure you are creating a positive social media footprint.
- Create a Twitter account. Another one. I bet you already have a great Twitter account staying up to date on your friends’ antics and the latest from your favorite sports team or reality star. I recommend making a new one that is only for the professional you. Whatever industry you are in, find the thought leaders and journalists who cover it and start following them. You can also keep a handful of friends, but chances are good a potential employer will check you out on Twitter and you want to make sure you are making a positive professional appearance.
- Join LinkedIn. Again, chances are good you already have a profile but now is the time to really make it count. Join groups; follow companies; follow thought leaders; post interesting content; comment on others’ content, either in your newsfeed or in groups, or both. Be visible when someone checks your activity.
- Check your email address. If you still use the email address from your college, or have some high school nickname or your parents’ address, you are not sending the message that you are a competent adult. Get a Gmail ASAP.
- Comment, comment, comment. That’s the key to making your name show up in searches and creating that positive online social profile. When you comment on thought leader blogs, you are creating that digital footprint that will track back to you when you are searched.
But you’re not always online (or, at least, you shouldn’t be!), make sure you:
- Cultivate a professional appearance. When you go on an interview, make sure that you are wearing something appropriate. They say that you should dress for the job you want, and that is a great motto to live by. Before you choose your outfit, see if you can find out what most people at the job wear, and dress one to two levels above. So if they are jeans, wear khakis and a button down shirt with a blazer. If they are business casual, add a tie or skirt. It can’t hurt to show that you know how to dress.
- Brush up on your written communication. Whether fairly or unfairly, young people have a reputation for only being able to write texts or Tweets. Show that you have a firm grasp on grammar and writing style by triple checking everything, from your resume (of course!) to the email confirmation for your appointment. Want to really wow them? Send them a hand-written thank you note after. This retro gesture will show you put thought into the little things.
- Stay knowledgeable about current events. You don’t have all the details of the Affordable Care Act (unless you’re looking for a policy position with the Obama Administration), but you should have a rough knowledge of most major things going on, from politics to entertainment to sports. Even if you don’t like any of those things, knowing enough about them to answer a question or make an intelligent remark shows that you care about what’s going on in the world.
- Don’t chew gum. I don’t know why I feel compelled to add this, but something about gum chomping is very annoying to most people over 35. It makes it hard to understand you and it makes you look dumb.
Superficial? Absolutely! But you only have one chance to make a good first impression and sometimes as a 20-something you have the unfair disadvantage of all the other 20 somethings to answer for. Go the extra mile to show that hiring a young person like you will offer them creativity, energy and fresh thinking; not an attitude or image problem!
by Cathie Ericson