It's a fact of modern life that we're the most connected community ever, not only through technology but in 'real life' as well. If you're a current student or graduate you'll have access to a pretty big toolbox that can keep you connected. I'm not talking about commenting on those Facebook photos you get tagged in from terrible clubs in town - I'm talking about finding and speaking to your future employer.
If you have a smart phone you can be online 24/7, 365 days a year, and I don't think this is annoying; I find it brilliant and incredibly useful, rather than something to be complained about. I used to feel equally frustrated and sympathetic when people said we were too reliant on the internet and social media. It's the sort of thing I hear regularly, and because I've grown up with these things at my disposal I used to react in a very knee-jerk way and assumed it was because whoever was complaining didn't understand or hadn't taken the time to use these new forms of communication. I then went through a period of wondering whether they had a point, and maybe the growth of Twitter and Facebook was changing things for the worse. Are we getting too reliant on communicating in 140 characters in abbreviated language? Are we evolving into always-online individuals with pond-skater minds?
Then I decided no.
To be honest I struggle to remember a time before the Internet - before I could get in touch with someone by email/Tweet/comment instantly. I readily admit that I would struggle to live my life without Twitter and couldn't possibly work without email. I get 90% of my news and information on the world from Twitter: I read and share news stories, catch up on sports, interact with colleagues and professional peers (most of whom I've never met), and banter with my friends. These activities make my life richer not poorer, and while I may have a shorter attention span and struggle to read a 400 page novel (not assisted by my slow reading speed - a pre-existing condition), I can now learn relevant information about a great number of things rather than a great amount about one thing.
When looking for a graduate job (and subsequent career moves) I've applied all this to my job search, as have thousands of others, to great success. I know from my current job that those looking for careers in accountancy and law, for example, may find it more difficult to use these tools to get a decent result than those looking for work in the creative industries, but it has to be worth a shot.
Here are a few ways that our connected life can help you get an internship, some work experience, or a permanent job:
· Google - I use Google every day, as do millions of others, but do you use it for job searches? It's easy to find the Ogilvy & Mather jobs page using Google, but do you search for blogs by the names of people working there, or the names of their MD or CEO? Google is always my first stop when researching a prospective employer and getting all the facts possible on their organisation and its history.
· Email - A no-brainer. My usual way of communicating professionally with the target organisation, whether it's to send my CV and Covering Letter, or just to ask a question about the role before applying - although always triple check the job description before asking for this information! If the role doesn't exist, or isn't in the public domain, an email can often be the best way to present yourself to the appropriate individual. You'll need to find out first who to address this to - do not send to info@... or reception@... etc.
· Twitter - My go-to move after Google. Find the company on Twitter, and see if you can find employees. I will usually follow the company, read through their tweets and see what they talk about. I can then retweet or reply to their tweets and start a conversation, you don't necessarily need to be an expert on the topic, just enough to start a dialogue. Remember, if you're confident you can usually fake it till you make it. I'll also use it to look up tweeters who work for the organisation and see if they tweet in a professional or personal capacity (or a mix, like me) and see whether it's worth talking to them too.
· LinkedIn - Like Twitter, always look up the company, find out if they belong to a discussion group and jump in. When it comes to individuals my personal preference is never to connect to them unless you have spoken to them - otherwise it risk appearing both weird and desperate.
· Facebook and Pinterest - Some companies choose to have a profile on these sites rather than Twitter or LinkedIn. That's fine, I'm just always careful about FB in particular as I use my profile for personal stuff so I like to keep it separate.
That's just a quick snapshot and is by no means definitive. There are plenty of other ways you can keep connected - blogs can be especially good for detailed discussions which show your passion and your interest - but the above are what I've used to good effect in the past. In the last two-three years I've connected to so many more people and heard about so many more great opportunities than if I'd depressed myself by searching a jobsite every other day. I love being connected because it's easy, and remember, social media doesn't sleep.
Follow Andy Newnham on Twitter: www.twitter.com/andynewnham