It was February last year that I received a Facebook message from a virtual friend with whom I had never had any conversation. Initially, I didn’t know what to make of the message, but on a closer look, I was astonished to realise it was a job offer! No application, no interview, no screening. Just one cool job offer dropping into my lap out of the clear blue sky! Life was good. Considering the fact that I was a freshman then, it meant a whole world of difference to me. I mean, here was some random Facebook friend, who I did not know from Adam, offering me a writing contract with a modest remuneration — modest enough to make me forget the monthly allowances from my parents in my bank account. She said she had been reading some of my Facebook posts, and she thought they were great, and she would like to have me on her team as a columnist for the campus segment of her news website. Of course, with all pleasure, I jumped at the offer.
In the 21st century, social media is fast becoming an integral part of every youth’s life. Experian Simmons, a provider of consumer insight service, says that about 98 percent of college-aged students use social media. In another survey of undergraduates by University of California, Los Angeles, it was discovered that, in 2014, 27.2% spent more than 6 hours on social media a week. Indeed, there is no doubt as to the strong online presence of youths in this generation. But the question is: “What are they doing on social media?” This is a pertinent question to which one is certain to get the most diverse of answers. It is true that some undergraduates harness the social media potentials to create awesome relationships with family and friends; it is also true that some reconnect with long-lost acquaintances, perform academic activities and exhibit their talents via the social media. However, we can’t ignore the fact that social media is fast becoming a haven of cyber fraud as well as an avenue for provocative activities, too. Of all the uses of social media, though, it seems to me that the most underutilized by college students is how social media can be used in securing one’s future, by leveraging it to get job after school.
I have mentioned above, though in passing, how I landed my first job as an undergraduate. The goal is usually to create an extraordinary online profile that will strike the right impression on the minds of prospective employers. As much as possible, get rid of any negative posts or pictures about yourself online. Be careful what you share, because, despite your awesome privacy settings, the Internet still has its terrific mechanism of making things go viral. Most importantly, learn to highlight the good stuff about yourself. Show and state unequivocally the incredible things you have done, are doing and are capable of doing. Social networks speak volumes about an individual beyond what can be seen in a résumé or cover letter. Hence, one must learn to do things deliberately, even while catching fun.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram come to mind readily as the thriving social networks, and a lot of statistical surveys have shown how they are beginning to affect employment. In one of such surveys, Snelling.com, an employment agency that has been in the business for 65 years, stated that 86% of employers now check social networks before granting interviews. How can college students take advantage of this? A few options suffice, the most tenable of which is “making the right network”. As an undergraduate, you should follow experts, companies and institutions in your field on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. This keeps you abreast of their activities and job vacancies. As often as you can, partake in online conversations on trending issues in the industry and be brilliant while at it (even if you must feign that brilliance). Through that, you portray yourself as one who is knowledgeable and of immense value to a potential employer. And by all means, never forget to mention in your profile your areas of interest, strong points, the places where you have worked and your laudable accomplishments there. It is allowed. It is called self-marketing — not bragging, not narcissism, not any of those remorse-imposing terms.
What then if you finally get a job after college using social media? Would it be all moonlight and roses? Of course not! Just as much as it is excellent and cool, it comes with its slight headache, too. You should know that such jobs demand a high level of efficiency, especially because expectations have most likely been heightened by your awe-inspiring online profile! The employer thinks so highly of you that he wants to see you do better or, at worst, replicate those impressive achievements you have had in the past. Should you be a little slack in service, he gets disappointed in you and you might just be dancing at the threshold of a dismissal. Remember, all it would take him to replace you might just be a click away.
But interestingly, the pros outweigh the cons. In fact, getting a job through social media should be every college student’s dream. This is because, among other things, it saves the individual a lot of resources — time, energy, and money — that would have been expended in searching for jobs through the orthodox methods. Besides, in most cases, the new recruit gets to do what he is passionate about due to the fact that the employer must have put his interests and strong points into consideration before making an offer. And this is very comforting, especially in this era when people hardly have any enthusiasm towards their jobs. In the recruit’s case, he gets to do what he enjoys — maybe even from the comfort of his home, in case of a virtual job — and earns money from it. But that’s not all. This kind of job puts to one a challenge of expectations and efficiency, which often prompts one to stretch and work hard to attain optimal output.
It is high time college students started seeing and exploring the myriads of opportunities hitherto locked away in the vastness of social media. As employers continue to devise new strategies for hiring staff, going with the tide and putting into consideration factors never used, the undergraduate cannot afford to lag behind. The world is getting more competitive day by day, hence the need for the college student to start grooming himself so as to be able to thrive when he enters the market. The rate of unemployment keeps growing as man continues to make further breakthrough in science and technology. Efficient machines now call for lesser manpower, and robotics is gaining wider currency. An undergraduate needs everything that can give him an edge. The social media, in many ways, provides this edge. It helps the student secure his future while still in school. It provides him with an avenue to market himself, draw the attention of potential employers and sustain that interest. And while all that is taking place, with same social media, he still gets to say ‘hi’ to loved ones, brainstorm with coursemates on a difficult assignment, follow some celebrity gossips, and perhaps convince that elegant cutie in Faculty of Law to date him.
~~~Omoya Yinka Simult
Abridged version of this post was first published on Collegemagazine.com on May 13, 2016.