I recently attended my old university’s (of which I am now an ‘alumnus’ – how exciting) graduate BeCreative day, to be on hand offering advice and answering questions of current students in the fields of art and design. One strong theme that came about was students questioning the effectiveness or usefulness of social media when hunting for jobs, especially the likes of LinkedIn. These routes of contact were largely met negatively by some panel members, but I totally disagree. Let me tell you why.
1. Yes, face to face is better.
The main argument was that face to face or ear to ear (basically being on the telephone) was more effective than LinkedIn, often hailed as more personal and effective at making contacts. Of course, it is common sense to believe this. There is nothing like meeting somebody face to face, which is exactly why job interviews or portfolio reviews exist. So if you’re amazing at organising meetings with people and they have the time to speak to you, go for it. My first job came through talking to a guest lecturer very briefly when they came in to give a lecture on digital design. That first point of contact was face to face and that person became my creative director and friend. Another thing to take from that; always go to guest lectures. It looks bad on you and your educational establishment if you’re lying in bed slapping the snooze button with a stick.
2. Engaging online is useful.
I’ve been using Twitter and LinkedIn for a few years, mainly as ways to make and maintain contacts in the industry and become involved in design discussion. Just by tweeting a few things about a design topic or something that everybody is talking about, you can instantly connect with other designers in a similar position to you. This is useful because whilst they might not all be offering you jobs, they are people you can interact with on the matter. Likewise, maintaining a good, clear LinkedIn profile can be extremely beneficial. During my time at university, I treated mine like a CV. All those CV classes and seminars at university should not be taken lightly; as well as a physical or digital version of your CV, treat your LinkedIn profile in the same way, and don’t use a photograph of yourself partying as your profile image.
3. Watch what you tweet.
I’ve said this before. Don’t tweet anything inappropriate during your job hunt, because many employers, dodgy as it may seem, to check your profiles to get an idea of what you’re like. If you portray yourself terribly online, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that it gives a bad impression of you as a whole.
4. It can be useful.
During my job hunt, I made connections with people I had emailed, tweeted or spoken to on the phone, and kept in touch with them via LinkedIn. This left me with the opportunity to contact them later on to enquire of any vacancies. It has also allowed potential employers to see my profile and learn about my skills. This can be a bit useless if you don’t have a link to your online portfolio, but a LinkedIn profile is often a one stop shop for many, to see the quality of work you are capable of.
5. Is it useless?
No. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend using just LinkedIn on your quest for experience, I would not dismiss it as useless. There’s a knack and a degree of technique to using it properly and making the most of it; if you don’t, you can’t expect to see any results. I’ve had numerous messages from people on LinkedIn suggesting job opportunities which have actually been applicable to me, and they are often real people looking for someone who they think fits the bill for a job in hand.
There isn’t a recipe for success or a right way to go about things, but all I would say is don’t neglect your online presence and do use LinkedIn, contrary to the pessimists. You’ve got nothing to lose in doing so.