July 16th, 2009 by Tim Greenhalgh
A warm welcome back to guest blogger and academic Lorraine Warren, who is Director of Postgraduate Education and senior lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the School of Management at the University of Southampton
It looks like students are going to be facing a difficult time in the job market as the financial downturn continues to take its toll on graduate job vacancies and training programmes. Although the majority of my students graduating this year have fared quite well, those coming through behind them are growing anxious about their chances in an increasingly competitive market.
Some of them feel very challenged by the new business environment; this is hardly unexpected given that they have not seen economic conditions like this during their lifetime.Â Since the early 1990s, by and large, they have only experienced economic growth.Â Some of them are starting to realise that the old strategies for getting good employment may not be enough.
In the past, it has never really been the case that being awarded a good degree would inevitably lead to a good job.Â For a long time, employers have looked for other attributes and activities that convince them that their prospective employee is a rounded person, not narrowly focussed on academic activity alone â€“ that they are capable of working in teams, collaborating and participating in social networks.Â Students have long recognised this and flag up their sporting achievements or society leaderships in job applications.Â So what more can be done?
Students know that many employers examine the online presence of job applicants, checking them out using Google and trawling social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo.Â They can see this as a negative process where an embarrassing photo from years ago might be held against them.Â And in some cases that is so!Â This can put students off participating in social media, which is unfortunate, because it could be the very thing they need to set them apart from the crowd.
Instead of shying away from online presence, students should, as a bare minimum, have a well-managed online identity that says a lot about their professional potential.Â A well-designed blog or Facebook site that is rigorously maintained is a good start.Â But thereâ€™s more to it than that. The real power of social media can be seen when it is used not just to join or maintain existing networks, but instead when it is used to create new value.
Students need to be proactive, using social networking sites to rapidly build new networks with high quality connections in organisations or industries they might want to enter.Â They need to use sites such as Twitter to take advantage of breaking news and current issues to create energy and develop activities in real time: build up a project, set up a charity venture, connect with others on-line who have similar interests, as things are actually happening.
In doing so, they can build up a buzz about themselves, and generate a community of interest in who they are and what they are doing.Â In showing that they are agile and ahead of the curve, they might create a compelling case for someone to create an opening for them, or make that all-important phone call or connection.