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So You Just Graduated and You Want a Job

Last week, I attended my sixth or seventh Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) International Conference, dating back to my years with the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) while I was in college. Indeed, the fact that PRSSA co-locates their national conference in the same city as the big kids conference is one of the reasons why I think it’s such a good event. I also recently participated in a panel event put on by the Georgetown chapter of the the Social Media Education Connection (SMCEDU) where we talked about social media with a group of Georgetown students.  Between these two events and my involvement with SMCEDU, I’ve spoken with a LOT of very bright, very ambitious, and very enthusiastic students.

Talking with these student reminded me of a recent post I did for the PRSA-NCC blog, “I Just Graduated and I Want a Job in Social Media.”  So, to help those students I’ve met recently, including: Renee Goldman, Yu-Ching Chiang, Heather Richey, Brooks Cooper, Jen Dryer, Courtney Wilson, Mike Hayes, and many others I’ve met over the last few weeks, I’m reprinting that post here:

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Are you "digitally prepared" for a job?

For the last few months, I’ve been talking with a lot of new college grads about their college experiences, jobs, and careers.  When I tell these eager young professionals that I’m a communications consultant who specializes in social media, I usually get one of two questions: 1) What does that mean? or 2) Seriously? How do I get to do that?

To address those of you who would have asked me the first question, I help my government clients develop and implement communications strategies and tactics so that they can better communicate with their employees, other government partners, the general public – essentially with any of their stakeholders. One way in which I do this is through the strategic use of social media tools like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

However, the second question has been much more popular and has led to the most interesting conversations.  So, for all you new college graduates out there looking to get a public relations or communications position that involves social media, here’s a little primer:

DO include links to your blog, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, Twitter profile or any other social media site on your resume. Employers want to see things that you’ve written and how you use these sites.

DON’T forget to make use of the privacy settings on these sites.  Your future employer WILL Google you, not to try to find incriminating pictures, but to get a better idea of how you use social media. Using Facebook to organize your local PRSSA chapter is very different from using Facebook to invite your friends to a kegger. It’s all about balance – most people realize that you have a life outside of work.  That’s ok.  Just make sure that’s not all you’re about.

DO some research on your potential employer and discover what, if any, social media presence they have.  If you’re applying for a government position working with communications or social media, you better be able to tell me that you at least know what GovLoop is.

DON’T try too hard.  I don’t want to do a search on you to discover that you joined Twitter a week ago and you’re following every Booz Allen employee you could find or that you’ve just joined 26 different PR-related groups on LinkedIn in the last few days.  Just be you and be authentic.

DO be ready to walk me through the steps you might take if I told you that I the CEO of a company and I wanted to start a blog.  Hint: if you tell me that you don’t have any experience with doing that, you’re probably not going to be interviewing much longer 🙂

DON’T overvalue your social media skills.  Social media, while hot right now, isn’t always the answer.  Make sure that you have a solid understanding of communication principles because we can teach you how to use Twitter – it’s much more difficult to teach you how to successfully build a communications strategy.

And last, but certainly not least, please DO a Google search for your name.  What shows up?  What doesn’t?  Remember that this is the new first impression.  If you aren’t completely honest about your skills and experiences, it’s really easy to track your digital exhaust and find out the truth. So, what kind of first impression do you want to make?

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Social Media and the Next Generation

My four years at Bethany College will always stick in my mind as some of the best times of my life.  Professionally, this is where I learned the fundamentals of communications, from public relations to advertising to writing for the media. Personally, this is where I formed many of the relationships that have made me the person that I am today.  This period of professional and personal growth has had a tremendous impact on everything that I do and I’m extraordinarily grateful for the relationships, experiences, and knowledge that I gained while I was in college.  It was here that I first learned the differences in writing a feature story and a news story, where I learned how to give a public presentation, where I first experienced what it was like to work with an actual client, where I began to understand that all the knowledge in the world isn’t going to cut it in the “real world” unless I had people skills too.  Disappointingly though, I didn’t learn a single thing about social media, Web 2.0, and especially not Government 2.0.  It wasn’t just that this terminology didn’t exist, it was that the principles of methods of open, transparent communications didn’t exist either.

We had a “Mass Communications 101” class where we learned how broadcast, communications had evolved over the years.  We had a “Communication Theory” class where we learned the Magic Bullet theory and the Mean World theory.  But, we never had a class where we learned the many-to-many communications model of social media.  We never had a class where we discussed the differences in writing for a blog versus writing for a newspaper.  Media relations 101 didn’t even mention bloggers.  We were learning communications for the past and the present but were unprepared for communications in the future.  How would communications evolve over time?  What new tools would change the way organizations communicated?  What new communications methodologies would be embraced?

Since I graduated, I’ve spoken to many students, professors, and alumni, and I’ve been consistently disappointed in the lack of formal (or informal) education around social media at the collegiate level.  Despite what you may have heard from the Baby Boomer generation, today’s college students aren’t out there creating blogs, tweeting, or using wikis on a regular basis.  Sure, they are most likely on Facebook or MySpace for personal reasons, but using Facebook to organize your next Edward Forty-hands mixer is a lot different than using a blog to change public opinion and organize an online community.  I’ve met just as many 24-year-olds who are as completely befuddled by Twitter as 42-year-olds.

Enter the Social Media Club Education Connection.  Ever since I started working as a consultant at Booz Allen, I’ve loved mentoring my colleagues, giving presentations at college campuses, and coaching junior team members on projects.  I’ve always gotten a lot of satisfaction from helping others reach their potential while still showing them that they can have fun doing it too. For these reasons, I’ve also been very interested in the opportunities for improvement in higher education and communications. Then one day in April, while attending the SNCR New Communications Forum, surrounded by people like Shel Israel, Chris Brogan, Geoff Livingston, Jeremiah Owyang, Katie Paine, and many other luminaries in the social media community, I thought to myself, “This is EXACTLY the type of conference that a college student should be attending.”  Further inspired by the next generation of social media leaders – people like Dana Lewis, Sydney Owen, and Dena Olyaie, and professors like Mihaela Vorvoreanu and Howard Rheingold – I tweeted that I thought there should be collegiate chapters of Social Media Club.  Shortly thereafter, I had a lengthy conversation with Chris Heuer, founder of the Social Media Club, about how to turn this idea into action and formally establish something.

Just a few months later, we’ve officially established the Social Media Education Connection (almost 150 members deep already!). I’m extremely excited to start working with George Washington University, one of our founding #SMCEDU chapters, right here in Washington DC.  In cooperation with student representatives, Dena Olyaie and Cathryn Sitterding, and faculty representative, Sean Aday, I’m looking forward to cultivating the relationship between the students of George Washington University, the DC Chapter of Social Media Club, and Booz Allen Hamilton.  When I first talked with Chris about establishing the Social Media Club Education Connection, we discussed our goals for this new initiative:

  • Connect the local Social Media Club groups more closely with their local universities
  • Co-create a combination of mentoring programs, internships, professional development opportunities to benefit both the university and professional chapters
  • Co-create a repository of Creative Commons licensed Social Media curriculum

Over the coming months, I will be working with Dena and Cathryn to create an SMCEDU GW chapter charter, work with the university to become an officially recognized organization, secure meeting space, identify additional interested students, create a strategic plan, and work with the SMCDC chapter leadership to identify professional development opportunities.  I hope this is the start of something much bigger, something that will spread throughout colleges and universities across the country, and I hope that you’ll be a part of it too.

Who knows what social media will be like in 5 or 10 years?  Who will be tomorrow’s communications leaders?  You now have the opportunity to help shape the future of the communications industry by helping shape the careers of the next generation. If you want to be part of the effort to improve the quality of social media education being offered in schools, please join our new SMCEDU Project Community on Ning.

*Image courtesy of Flickr user CLF*

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Speaking

For the last 12 years, I’ve been a keynoter, speaker,  panelist, and moderator for everything from PRSA’s International Conference to the U.S. European Command’s Public Affairs Conference. My presentations focus on how organization, government agencies, and brands can better integrate social media into their marketing, public affairs, public relations, collaboration, and leadership strategies. My presentation style is NOT your run-of-the-mill PowerPoint presentation.  I’m an energetic, self-deprecating, humorous, and personal speaker.  I’d much rather have a real conversation with my audience instead of simply talking at them.  I customize every presentation I give and adjust my focus on the fly depending on my audience.

Sample Speaking Topics Include:

 Upcoming Presentations

  • September, VisitPittsburgh BeDigital Conference, “Building Content That Has Value Beyond Likes, Comments, and Clicks.”
  • October 9, PRSA International Conference, “Make 90 Seconds Last a Month: The Story Behind Adweek’s #1 Super Bowl Ad.”
  • October 10, PRSA International Conference, “How can Brands Address Diversity? A Look at Brands That Yelled: We All Matter!”
  • Octover 11, COMMIT!Forum, “Business Drivers Behind Brands Taking Stands.”
  • November 5, IABC Heritage Regional Conference, “Make 90 Seconds Last a Month: The Story Behind Adweek’s #1 Super Bowl Ad.”
  • January 16, 2018, IABC and PRSA Colorado Conference, “Make 90 Seconds Last a Month: The Story Behind Adweek’s #1 Super Bowl Ad.”

Past Presentations

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