I was invited to join this year’s American Advertising Federation Career Day in Cleveland to share my perspectives on the impact and importance of social media for new job seekers.
The audience of approximately 100 recent or pending college graduates gathered at The Plain Dealer’s headquarters in downtown Cleveland to listen to an assortment of speakers provide advice, motivation and insight into the daunting process of finding a real world career after college. The crowd of students was dominated by young women, who appear to have made up about 70% of the audience.
As the designated social media dilettante, my task was to convince this room full of Facebook aficionados of the need to create, maintain and promote a social media presence on LinkedIn instead of Facebook. Although all of the students were familiar with LinkedIn, none had built a complete profile that could competently and memorably convince a prospective employer of their professional value.
My presentation focused on the necessity to consider the impression they make with their social media content. As college students, they rarely, if ever, consider the long term consequences of indiscreet comments and photos that dominate the typical student’s Facebook page. I related stories from job seekers who lost dream jobs because of inappropriate or offensive content that surfaced during their job search and assured them that if any comment or conversation had the potential to offend, it would.
As with any professional on LinkedIn, they also need to recognize the importance of their first impression. What does their photo convey? Is their headline compelling and informative? Did they tell their personal story and convey their professional passions in their summary?
After my talk, I offered to review any student’s social media profiles to suggest how they could become career friendly. About a dozen students stayed to review their profiles, which was heartening, but what surprised me was that of the students who stayed to have their profiles critiques, all were young women. There were no young men who sought feedback, suggestions or critique of their own efforts.
Of course, this could be an anomaly, or it could reflect the miserly impact my presentation had on the young crowd. But it could also reflect gender based behavioral differences that can have long term professional consequences. The young women who are comfortable soliciting advice and prepared for critique will learn more, improve the quality of their professional product and develop valuable team building skills that will prepare them more completely for the professional world.
The young men who elect to embark on their own will discover that innovation, creativity and excellence are not solo pursuits. The best ideas and greatest innovations almost always result from group interactions, the amalgam of ideas and the absorption of both positive and negative feedback. Employers aren’t looking for brilliant loners, but for participative employees with the capacity to learn from their inevitable mistakes and contribute as part of a cohesive group.
If one day spent with the future of advertising and marketing professional is any indication, I’m betting on the women to dominate their field.