SALT LAKE CITY — One of Booker T. Washington’s most enduring quotes, “Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way,” applies not only to our life’s work, but our search for work as well.
Well-meaning adults have been telling Millennials all of their lives that if they simply did well academically and played by the rules, the rest would somehow fall into place.
Today’s college graduates are increasingly learning that there is no conveyor belt from their college years to their career years. Long gone are the days when a resume workshop and a trip to the career services office on campus serve as a job search strategy. Even the art of networking is very different for today’s young workers, and those who have found a way to do it successfully make use of their technological know-how in creative ways all job seekers can learn from.
Jonathan “JD” Roger is a stand out from Boston University’s class of 2012. A summa cum laude graduate with a double major (political science and history), and an impressive list of extra-curricular musical and theater technology accomplishments to his name, JD stands as a modern case study in how to translate a liberal arts education into that first career move.
“It kind of goes without saying that folks of my generation are expected to know how to use web-based technology and have a social media presence on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook,” Roger said. But he was also quick to point out that the ubiquity of these tools still forces job seekers to fit themselves into a routine format that fails to truly capture their humanity and potential value to an employer.
Using traditional networking skills and job boards helped Roger get a number of interviews. No doubt his strong academic credentials played a role as well. But in part, he attributes his success in securing employment to what he refers to as having, “a resume plus” — tools that help make you a whole person to a hiring manager who is likely viewing hundreds of resumes.
One of Roger's “resume plus” tools was a website he put together himself as an extension of his personal brand. “I was looking at the portfolios that my classmates in the arts or other creative fields were using. Most of them were posted online and I thought, ‘Shouldn’t we all have something like that?’”
Getting an interview is still only one step in the process of securing a job. JD wanted something to extend the prospective employer’s engagement with who he was not just as a new professional, but as a person.
For less than $10-$20, you can buy a domain name (a web address) unique to you. A number of templates exist from companies like WordPress that are also free or very low cost, so there's no need to code a website. Most of those sites also have tutorials on how to build a site, explain how hosting services work (companies that have servers for your site to reside on), and how to customize their templates with the words, pictures and other content you wish to appear on your site.
As Roger explained it, “the best way to learn how to use these tools is to tinker with them and watch the tutorials that are all over the place. If you know how to use the web, you can probably navigate the process in a few hours.”
Some other tips if you decide to put your own website out there:
Just as you would with anything visible to the public, make sure all of the content represents you well, is free of errors and is information you would want anyone to see. Remember, the web is a public space.
Since most entry-level job seekers need to keep their resume to one page, use your site to expand in a relevant way on your experiences. Just remember, while the site is about you, it is not for you; it is for those who may wish to hire you. Make sure it is framed in a manner that shows value you can bring to an employer.
Make sure you use photos you have the rights to, and that the primary photo of you is a professional headshot (or professional-looking at a minimum).
Just as you should on your resume, use keywords that you find in the job postings for the type of work you are seeking. This is a way of matching yourself to your desired job.
Make sure once the site is live that the address is on all of your social media profiles and on your resume, and even refer to it in the closing of your cover letters and interviews.
There is benefit in having a web presence that you control as opposed to a large company with design norms and access policies that change over time. On the flip side, owning all of the content on that site means you need to invest the time to ensure it remains current.
Roger, who is now a personal banker for a growing local financial institution, admits that while your site probably will not get a lot of hits, “the point is to show who you are, what you can do and that you are not afraid to put in the additional effort to stand out.”
John J. Brady is an executive, speaker and columnist with 20 years of experience in the education sector. He writes on matters of higher education, transitions into college and career, non-profit management and standardized testing. JB@johnjbrady.net
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