By A Gen X Career Advisor (with Joshua Waldman)
My duty as a career advisor is to provide students with enough guidance and resources to properly land a job before they graduate.
Some take the bait, some don’t.
And those that do, they call me “#Boss” and I love it.
How did I earn this nickname? It’s simple. I interact with students at their level. I don’t act like a boss at all, I act like their coach.
I’ve earned their respect (even though we’re “Friends” on Facebook).
And the technique I use isn’t rocket science. College students nowadays don’t know a world without the internet, social media, and mobile devices… so that’s where I connect with them.
My Baby Boomer Colleagues Disagree With Me
I’m always swapping strategies with my colleagues, especially the Baby Boomers. They’ve been in the business longer than me so I always enjoy learning from the lessons they’ve learned.
But when they tell me to be careful using social media (Facebook in particular) with my students, I simply smile and nod my head.
I don’t agree with them. Not one bit.
Some of my Baby Boomer colleagues think students will classify me only as a “friend” and not take my advice seriously or they feel some privacy god will strike them down where they sit. Well, that hasn’t been the case with the students I’ve worked with. They’re smart enough to understand they need to listen to my career counseling no matter how they categorize our relationship.
Students are responsive to my coaching practice because I tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. People are naturally drawn to the uncommon so that’s how I stick out.
They know my goal is to help them find a job faster than on their own and I believe they appreciate my efforts to get on their level using social media.
It’s Not About the “What If”. It’s About the “What Now”
“I don’t know what I want to do after college.” (Average College Student)
I hear the above question every day on the job. It’s expected. As sure as the sun’s going to rise tomorrow, a student will ask that question.
“It’s okay to be clueless. You’re not alone. Just don’t be paralyzed lazy.”
What can they do NOW helps them have “little wins” that we can focus and build on.
Most college students are frustrated and overpowered with the thought of picking a single career path. (I know I was.) I always make sure I carefully explain it’s not their fault. There’s no blueprint for picking a career and it’s probable whatever you choose now is going to change down the line.
It’s a vital decision, but it’s not permanent.
Even seasoned and skilled professionals can’t seem to find their way. Why should a twenty something?
Heck, I finally found my career passion by helping others find theirs. Funny how things work out, huh?
They key is to take little steps and only focus on the present. The biggest mistake is procrastination. This isn’t a good time to overthink. You need to stay motivated.
That’s where I come in. It helps to have someone watching your back.
4 Ways I Use Social Media to Help My Students Find Career-Happiness
The number one social media network is Facebook so it’s an obvious place to interact with students. They’re always logged in via their laptop or mobile device so you can be pretty certain they’re seeing your messages.
Many advisors stick to only e-mail. Not me. I use a nice balance. My initial outreach is usually via Facebook and I’ll switch to e-mail when the communication becomes more in-depth.
Example FacebookMessage: “Hey John! I found a job posting you may be interested in. Swing by my office and be sure to bring Susie and George. I have some information for them too.”
(Students feel more comfortable with their peers in tow so I typically encourage group sessions in the beginning.)
[Editors note: the author actually has two Facebook profiles, one just for students. On it, she not only leaves off personal information, but is just as careful to include just enough personal information so that she still appears human. For instance, on her student facing profile, there are no pictures of her drinking beer on her last camping trip, but there are pictures of her with her daughter.]
Most student LinkedIn profiles are lacking since they don’t have much real-world experience to date. Since I’m on campus, I know what they’re up to in terms of extracurricular activities. If a student has organized an event, or is part of a group leadership team, I can vouch for them.
Coupled with the casual conversations I typically have throughout the semester, I’m allowed to witness a student’s strengths firsthand. I will help verify these attributes to others by endorsing students for Skills and by providing Recommendations.
Being a relationship hub is the new generation of career advising! The better I build my brand as a source of student talent, the more my network grows to connect students with opportunity.
I network like a champion, keeping track of who is looking for what kind of talent and I use linkedIn to share a student profile with a talent scout about once/week.
Four of my seniors this year got their jobs because I either pointed them to someone on LinkedIn or someone on LinkedIn asked me to point them to a student!
My students and I created an “Instagram program [profile]” where they follow and tag each other to stay updated on each other’s success, and to acquire inspiration from one another.
An example of an Instagram-worthy scenario is attending a networking event or going on an site visit of a company. Pictures can express so much more of the value of these experiences and their friends “?” everything that is cool and different from the norm.
Back in my day we called this part “journaling.” It’s the same idea for my students but the information should be readable by others, including myself.
A personal blog provides a platform for frequent, detailed updates so students can properly track their progress. Students traditionally hate me when I encourage them to start a blog but in the end they’re able to comprehend the value (dare I say that they thank me later!).
Having a blog also allows me to serve up instant feedback during a student’s job search. I’ve also had students tell me they were better able to clarify their thoughts and feelings while blogging, which helped them solve their problems more efficiently.
And of course, owning a personal blog is a tremendous branding strategy. It’s a sure-fire way to stand out amongst a sea of social media savvy applicants. It tends to be the forgotten technique because it requires the most work. Typical, right?
Alright, so that’s why my students call me “Boss.” Now tell me, how do you get through to college students? Are you willing to use Facebook in a way you’ve never considered before?
Our Author is a Gen X career advisor at a University on the west coast who has asked to remain anonymous for now. But she doesn’t mind adding students as Facebook friends because they know she’s the “Boss”.