Current college seniors, myself included, are being given the difficult task of securing post-graduate employment during the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Family, friends, professors, the media and online groups recommend the utilization of networking to aid in the daunting task. However, even with our natural ability to build communities on Facebook and MySpace with our peers, reaching out to an unknown or lesser-known potential employer remains an intimidating endeavor.
Career-fairs, dinners and other networking opportunities are continuously pushed on students. Needless to say, the majority of attendees leave such events feeling as if little forward progress was made towards landing a job. The mere exchange of contact information and no promise of job security in the future does not usually warrant a feeling of accomplishment. The absence of a quantifiable gain from the time spent mingling is little motivation to attend another similar event.
A personal brand can be built using one, or a combination of, the many online channels. These include, but are not limited to: Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, FriendFeed, Delicious, Foursquare, Loopt, Flickr and the recently released Google Buzz. With so many avenues to connect and voice a personal opinion, how do students know which resource will be most beneficial towards reaching his or her goal?
Networking used to require face-to-face interaction and the building of trust through reliability, sincerity and the test of time. While these online tools enable students to network with potential employers, the same tools are available to allow employers to pass judgment on their applicants. Students should be wary of the transparency created by having public profiles on various online communities. It is just as important to have a consistent representation on each site, as it is to only post appropriate content.
While I attempt to maintain a similar user name, profile picture and demeanor on all of the online channels I participate in, I truly do not feel that reading material on the Internet can provide a potential employer with enough direction to deduct an informed judgment about me.
So, I pose a question: How do college students create meaningful relationships with our ever-expanding web of contacts?