Lately, I have been talking with many classmates who are in their final year of university and thinking about the future. What happens after graduation? Some people I have spoken to had a sense of excitement to graduate as soon as possible. However, as each quarter passes by and graduation day approaches, many students are starting to feel nervous about their post-graduation plans. For example, most graduate schools in the US have deadlines in late fall or early winter of the year prior to entry of the program. Many jobs and internships have due dates in the winter or early spring. However, in this tough economic time, it is quite difficult to find a job fresh out of college, especially one that is related to your major and interests. Now, what can you do? My suggestion is to start building your network with your remaining months at school. How should you go about doing it? There is no exact formula. But here are some things I did to start.
- Build a portfolio of your work and share it with the world.
- Make your own website or a blog.
- Take advantage of social media tools: create a LinkedIn profile, a Twitter account and/or a Facebook fan page!
Step 1 >> Build your Career Portfolio
The easiest way to start is to identity whether your documents are in paper or in electronic form. Paper documents can be kept together in binders with plastic sleeves. Electronic documents can be grouped together in a folder on your hard drive or a form of removable media. However if you choose this route, please remember to store the files in more than one place as a backup. To be safe, print everything out also. As you can tell, a hybrid print and electronic record-keeping system can also be implemented.
Collect various kinds of documents that have information relating to your biography, skills, accomplishments and community service experiences. Most commonly, your biography is summarized by your resume or curriculum vitae, whichever you prefer to use. Other notable documents in this segment of the portfolio include evidence of good health and letters of recommendation.
Typically, skills can be divided into four different categories.
- Learning skills
- Targeted Task skills
- People skills
- Self-Management skills
Each one of the four types of skills can be supported by a variety of different ways. Examples of learning skills include school-related information (transcripts, awards, etc.) as well as self-directed experimental learning. Targeted task skills can be shown with evidence of your past accomplishments. Show the world you can communicate effectively. Illustrate your ability with project or work samples! People skills refer to your participation in leadership or management roles. If you still have a couple months left of school, it is still not too late to demonstrate your leadership experience. Next time you have a group project, take initiative – lead the group. Delegate tasks. Make everything run smoothly. Last but not least, self-management skills are also crucial to your success. Write up a personal “mission statement.” What is your goal in life? Spark interest in people you encounter with your professional presence and ambition!
For all projects that you or someone viewing your portfolio will be proud of, keep records of it in one place so that you can share to the world your accomplishments. Same for community service experiences. Anything that shines you in positive light should be kept in a safe place.
Step 2 >> Showcase Your Career Portfolio
There are many ways to showcase your career portfolio these days. The easiest is to make a website. For me, I use AdrianChu.com as a blog, which also serves as my virtual career portfolio. How can you start?
Buy a domain name and get a hosting package. Download a blogging platform that you can use on your domain name, such as Blogger (http://www.blogger.com) or WordPress (http://www.wordpress.org). AdrianChu.com runs on WordPress.
Or you can start a free hosted blog from various platforms including:
- WordPress – http://www.wordpress.com (Note: This is different from the above link.)
- Blogger – http://www.blogger.com
- Posterous – http://www.posterous.com
Personally, I like WordPress the most, since it has a lot of themes and layouts to choose from, but the other two are quite interesting also. With Blogger, you can synchronize it with Google Adsense to publish ads on your blog. Posterous emphasizes the ability to publish stories via email.
So do the basic set up and make a page about yourself. Upload examples of your work that can be feasibly displayed on your website. You can update your blog frequently. I would suggest a minimum of once per week.
Step 3>> Connect your Career Portfolio
“I have a binder. I have a website. What’s next?” Increase your web presence by connecting your website with various Web 2.0 and Social Media technologies. The most common social networks to join are Facebook (http://www.facebook.com) and Linkedin (http://www.linkedin.com). I’m sure you have at least heard of one of those before. Send me a message if you haven’t and I can help you set up one. Facebook was designed for high school and college socializing, even though the average age of the user demographic is becoming higher and higher. Even the Baby Boomer crowd are getting their hands on a Facebook profile these days. Currently, AdrianChu.com is linked to a Fan Page which copies my blog posts onto Facebook so that people can read the posts while being on Facebook at the same time.
For professional networking, I prefer LinkedIn as it is catered to the working crowd and it allows you to upload a virtual version of your resume to share with potential clients and employers. A great way to get visibility for your qualifications and your past experiences.
Twitter (http://www.twitter.com) is also an interesting way to make short “micro-blog” posts to share with others what you are up to. It is a more bare-bones approach to social networking. If you just want to share short conversations with others, then Twitter is the choice for you.
Try out those three things for a few months. Then, search your name on Google and see which sites actually refer to you. You’ll be amazed at how “visible” you are online, unless your name is something like “John Doe,” which I would recommend creating a personal brand beyond your name. Maybe cater to your niche or your local area. Try searching “John Doe” + “San Francisco” or “John Doe” + “Real Estate Development”. That way, you may have a better chance finding your results. Periodically, googling yourself is a good idea, so that you can check up on your online brand and reputation. Anyway, I wish you the best of luck with your endeavors and happy March!