March 27, 2017

Secure Online Job Networking for Students: Three Tips

Congratulations, college students, you’ve made it farther than almost 70% of United States citizens, education-wise! For me, that’s hard to believe, since it seems as if everyone I know has graduated from either college or graduate school.  However, apparently this is not the case.

Now that you’re on track to graduate from college—whether it’s from a community college or a more traditional four-year institution—it’s time to start looking around for a job.  You might think it’s too early, but I promise, it’s not. However, the best way to ferret out career leads and contacts is never as straightforward as it might seem.

Most of the time, job and career exploration is a long and winding path filled with detours and unexpected side-trails.  Here are three tips to get you started down that path.

1. Contact everyone you know!

I don’t know about you, but when I think of job searching, I don’t immediately think of emailing my friends and family.  However, skipping this crucial step would be a mistake.  This is because the majority of jobs are obtained as a result of prior connections.  Human Resources departments and hiring managers are overwhelmed.  They see a pile of resumes on their desk, and they need you to help them sort the proverbial wheat from the chafe.

If you’ve been in touch with someone at the company, and they refer you to the recruiter by name, your resume is likely to jump to the top of the pile—especially if a current employee offers up positive information about an applicant.  In fact, this just happened with a friend of mine.  I recommended that said friend contact the recruiter at my place of work, and voila!  Within a week he secured an interview, and a week later he was hired!  Now, granted, my company happens to be expanding and growing rapidly, but still—that’s results for you!

2. Protect your privacy!

These days, most everyone is on social media.  By everyone, I mean employers, recruiters, and colleagues—along with family and friends.  Therefore, if you’re going to put your name out there to employers, make sure you’re only sharing information and photographs with your close friends and family.

It’s fairly simple to adjust the privacy settings on your Facebook account, for example, but some are still unaware of the basic privacy settings and functions.  If you’re not sure, simply go to the main menu all the way over to the farthest right of your name, then go to your “Privacy” settings.  It’s easy to change the settings on your timeline so that all past and future posts are only visible to those on your “Friends” list.  However, you can further adjust which friends can see different posts.  If you only want people on your “Close Friends” list to see your latest post all about various cocktails imbibed, last Friday night, so be it!  That way, you can add people to an “Acquaintances” list or a “Coworkers” list where you only share work-appropriate posts.

Regarding photo privacy on Facebook, be aware that you must adjust photos individually, as you post them. However, there is a function where you must approve of a tag on a photo before it can be posted by a FB friend.  That way, there’s no need for your supervisor to see a photo of you passed out on the floor from last night’s party.  The next day, when you see the requested tag, you can manually adjust the privacy settings before you approve the tag!

One other aspect of photo sharing you should be aware of is the GPS location meta-tag information that is automatically added to photos, unless you have the GPS settings on your phone turned off.  There are a few different solutions to this issue, if you have your GPS settings enabled.  One solution is to go through and manually look at the meta-data on each photo to make sure the GPS location data is removed.  Another option is to download a desktop or phone photo privacy app that automatically clears the metadata for you. This kind of self-protection is important to prevent would-be stalkers from taking advantage of information you may not intend to put out there—such as your home address!

3. Start Exploring Your Career Field—Yesterday!

I attended Reed College as an undergraduate.  My BA in English taught me how to think critically as well as creatively, and my senior thesis is something I’m still writing about!  While Reed is well known for its emphasis upon academic rigor, critical thinking, and learning for learning’s sake, one thing it did not teach me is how to network for a job—let alone to find and secure a job I wanted.

However, I do remember one presentation I attended during graduation week.  It was a lecture given by Don Asher, himself a graduate of Reed who now specializes in public speaking and writing about career networking, as well as applying for and securing job interviews. One of his points, in particular, stood out to me, and it had to do with contacting everyone you know—to not take any of your connections for granted.  He emphasized three simple and actionable types of information to request: advice, leads, and referrals. That is, the best way to tap into hidden leads via your existing contacts is to ask people for any advice, leads, or referrals they may have about your given career path.

You’d be amazed at how easily you can generate contacts this way, given sufficient time.  That last point is quite important, however: it takes a good six months to build up a significant number of contacts and leads.  Hence the importance of starting your job networking now, while you’re still in school—as opposed to two weeks after graduation!  If you’re patient and you work hard to build up a list of contacts, the difficulty of your job search will be greatly assuaged by your hard work and forethought.

In Conclusion

You can never be too careful or too meticulous in your online networking and job searching efforts, so begin building up a list of contacts now, protect your privacy, and don’t be shy!  You never know who you’ll be introduced to.  Whatever you do, always be polite: even if one particular contact doesn’t end up providing very much information, right now, that person could prove to be a valuable acquaintance for future networking purposes—as well as information.  Best of luck to you in your job search, and remember: it’s all about the journey, so try to have fun and learn as much as you can.  Education happens everywhere!

Daphne Stanford has lived in Carpinteria, Portland, Iowa City, Eugene, Riggins, and Boise. She holds a BA in English from Reed College, an MAT in Secondary English Education from University of Iowa, and an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Oregon.  Daphne also hosts “The Poetry Show!” on Radio Boise every Sunday from 5-5:30 p.m., MDT.

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