Perfect Your Social Media Mix to Get Your First Industry Gig

Whether it's Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or your own portfolio site, you can adjust the information you share to draw in new audiences and perhaps more importantly, attract new employers before you graduate in 2012.

Illustration by Stephen NaumannIllustration by Stephen Naumann

Very slowly but surely, the media world is rebounding. But i­f you’re one of many upcoming grads hoping to break into competitive media fields, you’re probably feeling like it’s not rebounding enough. 

Finding your first job is tough, but with the ease of social media, it’s become a process that begins well before you leave school or move to a big city to begin that dreaded job hunt. Even if you don’t graduate until spring or summer, there are easy things you can do now, wherever you’re located. Think of it as preparing to prepare for the job. Here are six simple New Year’s resolutions for the graduating classes of 2012 to try out to before it becomes time to score that first job.

1. Reach out to one professional a week.
Whether it’s reconnecting with someone you worked with at an internship or reaching out to a successful alumni whose career you admire, get in the habit of sending one simple email once a week. It’s off-putting to come right out and ask for a job, but advice is something many people are willing to give. Everyone’s been there– trying to figure out how to break into the industry– and there’s an element of flattery when you ask someone to tell his or her story. If you don’t know the person, explain a little about your situation and experience (but don’t unload on them), and ask how he or she got started. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an alum, a past co-worker or a friend of a friend, but if you’re attempting to reach out to a complete stranger who’s been successful in your field, shoot lower rather than higher. More recent grads probably have more insight into the current job market and probably have more time to share tips than a CEO. And if you’re looking for ways to find folks in your field … .

2. Use Twitter to connect, not to tell the world what you ate for breakfast.
Get a Twitter account. Seriously. Seek out people who inspire you, and don’t be afraid to engage with them on Twitter. You don’t have to proclaim, “HEY! I’M A STUDENT! HIRE ME!” in order to network. The more effective method is the subtle one— one that gives connections time to grow. Don’t even think of it as “networking” but rather, as engaging in the discourse about your career field. Put your real name on your Twitter, shine a light on professional projects when you have new developments, share links, have conversations, follow people you don’t know in real life. So long as you’re respectful, you will grow your personal brand and feel less alone in all of this.

3. Get a LinkedIn long before you graduate and– here’s the kicker– connect with as many people as possible.
I, too, at one time thought LinkedIn was a bunch of BS. I had a portfolio site, a blog, a very active Twitter, and a Facebook. So why exactly did I need another site to show my résumé and connect with people I’m already friends with on Facebook and Twitter? Because it’s the perfect way to research. Say you want a job at a big company, but you know no one who works there. If you know any professionals in your field, especially from any major internships you’ve had, chances are they may know someone there, or know someone who knows someone. And that’s the beauty of LinkedIn– you get to see how other people are connected. You may be able to find out who exactly is hiring for a given position using LinkedIn (and get their direct connect info), just by searching for the company and looking for people who work in specific departments. Be creative in your creeping and don’t be bashful about asking for a recommendation, because answering online job listings is simply not enough nearly all of the time. You need to connect the dots.

4. Stop freaking out about your Facebook.
Clearly you don’t want photos showing you, um, as they say, three sheets to the wind, but that doesn’t mean you need to take your last name off your Facebook or strip away all personality from it. You’re not trying to get a job in corporate banking— you’re a creative. If it makes you feel better to make parts of your profile private, then do so. But consider this rule of thumb regarding social media: if you’d be mortifyingly embarrassed for an employer to see something, you probably shouldn’t be putting it on the Internet at all.

5. Start worrying about other social media sites.
Specifically, if you don’t have any. You may think Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, etc. are dumb, but an employer in the communications field may be more concerned if you’re not exactly Google-able. Which brings me to my final point . . .

If you’re a person who works with creative content in any way— video or audio production, design of any kind, etc.— it’s silly not to have a portfolio site. This is a long-term goal, but make time to develop an online portfolio site BEFORE you send out any applications for jobs or post-grad internships. If you’re not exactly a design whiz, you can adapt easy-to-edit templates via blog sites like Wordpress and Tumblr (and even get a custom URL on it). Or if you’re really not the tech type, set up a simple portfolio site using Carbonmade and About.me. And after you’ve spent all that time setting one up, at least make the effort to keep an online portfolio up to date. Consider offering a downloadable copy of your résumé on your portfolio site.

Good luck out there!Get In Media

In addition to being a writer and editor for Billboard Magazine and Billboard.com, Jillian Mapes is Billboard’s intern coordinator. Two years ago, she was just finishing up her internship at Billboard.

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