I’m not a recruiter. I’m not a hiring manager. And, I’m not looking to hire anyone at ACH Communications (I have all the help I need at the moment!).
So, I want to start this post by making it clear that I’m not a recruiting specialist, nor do I hire people on a routine basis.
But, I do talk to a lot of people. And, I talk to a lot of people about the job market. So, I do have a somewhat informed opinion on the topic of recruiting–especially in the PR and social world.
And, from what I can tell, there are a number of clear challenges facing today’s hiring manager–and today’s social media candidates.
On the hiring manager side, the complaint I hear the most from friends and colleagues is a lack of clarity or depth in the resume or interview. For example, a candidate may say they have “strong experience with social media advertising tools”–but the hiring manager comes to find out the candidate has never used Power Editor.
Another example: The candidate might say “I helped drive and implement an integrated social media strategy for the company”–but the hiring manager comes to learn the candidate played just a very small role in that strategy development and that most of it was done by his manager.
From a hiring perspective, social positions are tough because sometimes the hiring manager isn’t the most fluent in social–therefore, they don’t know what they don’t know. Hiring managers may hire a candidate expecting they have a certain skill set they promised in the interview, only to find out the depth of that skill is surface deep at best.
On the candidate side, what I see most often when reviewing LinkedIn profiles is that junior to mid-level candidates don’t fully understand how to best position themselves to employers. They use generalities in their descriptions and stay pretty fluffy when talking about their work.
And, I think some folks tend to over-represent their work and skills. I see lots of “social media strategy development” in junior-level profiles. And while that might be true to an extent, I think it’s dangerous to label yourself as a strategy lead when you’re 25 years old (even if you did actually work on the strategy for your last company/client).
Finally, I don’t see a lot of results and numbers as I sift through LinkedIn profiles–which is absolutely BAFFLING to me since social is littered with opportunities to insert results and data. I mean, I wish I would have had the data I have now when I was building my resume 15-20 years ago. Yet, if you look through most LinkedIn social resumes, you won’t see a lot in terms of results or numbers. Strange.
So, what would I suggest? I thought you’d never ask:
For hiring managers:
- If you’re not fluent in social, but you’re tasked with hiring social talent, ask someone else within the organization to review resumes and participate in the interviews with you. They should be able to spot the warning flags you might otherwise miss–and they’ll give you a fresh perspective as well (and if you don’t have someone–call me! I’d love to help!).
- Ask for all the details. In interview situations, make sure you ask for specific details when discussing the candidate’s experience with content management systems, social advertising and community management. Get those details out now while you can–once they’ve started, it’s far too late.
- Showcase your social results–not actions. I see far too many lists of actions when I look at social media resumes, and not nearly enough results. How did the program you helped lead drive awareness or engagements for the org? How much traffic did you drive to your site? I mean, you should have a ton of stats and data you can plug into your resume.
- Resist the urge to over-promise. I know the whole “fake it til you make it” is a big thing. But, when it comes to interviews for social positions, I’d probably suggest avoiding that tactic. Here’s why: You say you can do something in the interview, you better damn well deliver on it once you’ve started. In fact, I believe in the opposite adage: Under-promise–over-deliver.
- Don’t worry about the title game. Yes, titles are important in that they can lead to more money over the course of your career. I’m not necessarily going to argue that point. But, chasing titles can be exhausting–and problematic for your career growth. For example, a friend of a friend became a “Vice President” at a very early age–then was laid off. That friend was jobless for a very long time, and I have a feeling it was because he/she was looking for jobs at a similar level, even though the similar level he/she should have been looking for was account supervisor–not VP. He/she priced himself/herself right out of the market, all because he/she had a big job title at an early age.
Today, I’m headed to Winona for my bi-annual pilgrimage where I speak to a slew of PR classes on campus (part of my Alumni Board work). This time around, I’m also chatting with the Winona St. PRSSA chapter. They asked me to come prepared to talk a bit about job search strategies for senior and juniors.
It’s a topic I don’t really give a ton of thought to these days–for obvious reasons. Then again, I do speak to a ton of students and dole out advice, when asked, to twenty-somethings fairly often.
But, for this crew (my alma mater), I wanted to offer up my best thinking. I didn’t want to just give out the garden-variety tips to these kids. After all, it’s kinda my job to look out for these WSU grads. Also: I get a huge kick out of it.
So, I spent the last few weeks thinking about more creative and truly effective job searching tips for today’s college senior. Here’s what I came up with:
1: Don’t just look for a job–look for THE job!
I think one of the biggest mistakes I made coming out of school was that I just looked for “a job.” I just wanted to break in. I really didn’t care how I did it. And, at the time, jobs were tough to come by, so I really just wanted to get that first job in communications. But, I wish I would have looked for “the job.” I wish I would have put more thought and effort into identifying that first job I really wanted. I think, by doing that, you can put all your time and effort into trying to win THE JOB, instead of just trying to get any old job. See the difference?
2: Polish the areas of your LinkedIn profile your friends aren’t
Most students will start polishing up–or start forming–a LinkedIn profile by their junior or senior years. That’s table stakes in today’s social and job searching environment. Why not take the next step and really focus on polishing those areas of your LinkedIn profile that your “competition” may not be doing. I’m talking about areas like: 1) Recommendations–just because you’re a student doesn’t mean you can’t have recommendations! Potential folks to ask: Professors, fellow students you’ve worked with on projects, and intern supervisors; 2) Personal info/interests–Might seem inocuous, but it might be a conversation starter for that first interaction with a recruiter; 3) Experience–If you have enough relevant experience through internships and student work, consider ditching your part-time jobs (waitressing, etc.). Focus on the work you’ve done that IS relevant.
3: Use the “new grad” label to your networking advantage
Here’s the thing about being a new grad–everyone wants to help you. Why? Because we were all in your shoes once. But, here’s the other thing about being a new grad–it wears off pretty quickly. So, take advantage of the label while you can. As a new grad, I think you’ll find very few people will turn you down for coffee. They just won’t. It’s a little bit of guilt. And, its a little bit of “we’ve all been there, so I need to help this person out.” So, use the label while you can. Ask people to coffee you probably wouldn’t think about asking. You might be surprised who says “yes.”
4: Identify 10 people you want to know–and use social media to help you meet them
The big secret most “guidance counselors” don’t tell you about that first job: You’re most likely to find it through your network–not on a job board. So, time to start building that network. Begin by identifying 10 people in the market you want to work in, who have jobs you might want to have someday. Find those people, and figure out how to connect with them via social networks. Do they have Twitter accounts? If yes, look for ways to engage them there (common interests are a good start!). Look them up on LinkedIn–think about asking for a connection (in a meaningful way–again, look for connections points). Do they have a blog? Comment on it–but look to add value. Are they involved with PRSA? Go to a PRSA event and stick out your hand and introduce yourself. So many ways to use social to meet people now–you actually have no excuses here.
5: Strive for at least two in-person coffees or meet-ups per week
Continue to build that network by scheduling two coffee meet-ups per week. Get that momentum going by leaning on other alumni who have recently graduate–they’re probably most likely to say “yes” to a random coffee ask. Then, once you start meeting with these alumni, ask them for 2-3 people they can introduce you to. Voila! You have an instant list of 8-10 people you can meet for coffee. Keep asking for the 2-3 introductions, and you’ll be surprised how many people you can meet in a summer.
6: Identify at least one volunteer opportunity where you can meet people in PR
The no-brainer, obviously, is PRSA. Find your local PRSA chapter upon graduating, join (it’s cheaper, as a recent grad, as I recall), and VOLUNTEER! Good committee to join out of the gate: Programming (meet a ton of people), student relations (coordinate student events), or membership (great way to meet PRSA members!). You might also look at: IABC, AMA, Social Media Breakfast, or, in Minneapolis, MIMA. They key here is not just to join one of these organizations–it’s to raise your hand and volunteer. Might be uncomfortable at first, since you won’t know a damn person. But, it’ll get a lot easier as you go. Trust me–I’ve done this on more than one occasion and it’s paid off every time.
7: Want to stand out from the crowd? Don’t be afraid to market yourself creatively.
Make no mistake about it–finding that first job in PR is an all-out battle. Against your friends. Against your fellow grads. And against everyone else who is applying for PR jobs across the country. How many resumes do you think agencies in Minneapolis receive from new grads each year? Hundreds, for sure. So, creativity is at a premium. How are YOU going to stand out amongst 250 resumes? Start by doing something no one else is doing. Like Dawn Siff, who alledgedly created the first-ever six-second resume on Vine.
Or, what about Katie Briggs, who used an infographic as her resume to land a job in advertising.
Now, do all these creative approaches lead to dream jobs right out of school? Of course not. But, they definitely get noticed. And they undoubtedly lead to some kind of job, and most likely a stepping stone to bigger things down the road.
Digital Marketing Magician.
Senior Road Warrior Marketing Intern
Wizard of Light Bulb Moments
We’re all seen these types of job titles on LinkedIn, right? And, most of the people I know would scoff at these.
Yet, they seem to be popping up in increasing numbers lately.
Maybe because they allow people to personalize their resumes a bit more.
Maybe because they allow people to be a bit more creative.
Maybe because they allow people to show a little personality in their LinkedIn profiles.
Except here’s the thing: They’re not going to do a darn thing for your career.
Why? Because the people doing the hiring (read: those over 35/40 years old) don’t find them creative, interesting or even a bit humorous.
They think they’re ridiculous.
Now, I’m not going to speak for all hiring managers (even though I guess maybe I just did), but I would think most senior-level managers who hire a “digital marketing magicians” would find that job title just a bit far-fetched and over-the-top.
You know what senior-level business leaders are really looking for when they hire junior to mid-level talent?
People who know how to get crap done.
People who know how to work as part of a team–but also take initiative.
And, bottom line: People who deliver results. Time and time again.
That’s what’s going to catch their eye–not a creative job title.
So, instead of working hours on end coming up with a creative and fun job title, why not put that time into focusing on the more important area of your resume: The results.
Managers typically like to see the following in a junior-level resume:
- Leads driven by your most recent digital marketing campaign.
- Number of impressions and engagements generated by your most recent social media campaign.
- Or, what about references from people you’ve worked for–or with–in the past?
That’s the kind of thing managers are going to look for in a resume. Not a fancy job title.
So, the next time you’re updating your resume and you’re thinking of adding a creative job title, don’t.
Resist the urge. Instead, focus on that time on the items within your resume your future manager WILL be paying attention to.
Believe me, you’ll thank me later.
During the first few years of my career, I was in a lot of what most people would call “dead end jobs.”
It wasn’t that these jobs were dead-ends. It’s that there was no room for growth and advancement. The positions were typically coordinator/specialist positions where I was working for a manager level marketing director who then reported up to an owner/VP-type person.
Chances are, you’ve probably been in a dead-end job at some point in your career, too. Right?
Or, similarly, maybe you’ve been in that job where the fit isn’t right, or you have a boss you don’t get along with so well. Those can be dead-end jobs, too (in a different way).
The real question is: How long do you ride it out?
Leave too quickly, and you start getting the reputation as a job-hopper. Someone who’s only looking out for themselves.
Stick around too long and you could wear out your welcome. Or, you will get to the point where you want to shove sharp objects directly into your eye sockets. Neither path is a fun one.
So, what’s the right timing? How long do you stick around?
Here’s my thinking on this–a lot of factors should play into any decision you make:
What’s your “life situation”?
Here’s an uber-honest assessment of a situation I was in years ago. Had a great job at a small agency here in town. Loved it. But, it was stressful. High-octane job (at least, for me it was). Right after I took this job, we had our second child. We had complications with that birth. My Dad was in the hospital that year. My aunt died unexpectedly. It wasn’t the best year. My life situation was rough. And, it showed at work. I was more stressed as a result. So, I decided to take a step back, accept a job that included far less stress, and just “coast” for a while–because that’s what my family and I needed. Sometimes, your “life situation” will dictate your decision more than anything–even when you actually do like the job.
If you leave now, will you be missing out on an opportunity?
Another personal example: When I left my corporate gig years ago for an agency job, the writing was on the wall. Political ides were shifting. People were moving. My job (along with many of my coworkers jobs’) might be in jeopardy soon (turns out, I was right). So, I bolted. But, if I would have stayed around for just a little while longer, I probably would have gotten a chance to work a few more major PGA events. I would have had a chance to work with some PGA players (sponsors). And, I would have got the chance to work the PGA Championship for a second time (a dream opportunity). I missed out on all that to leave the firm. Did I make the right decision? Maybe. But, just be sure to ask yourself before you leave: If I were to stick around for three more months, what opportunities would I have?
How bad is it, really?
Is it to the point where you really just don’t want to get up and go to work in the morning? If yes, it’s probably time to leave. If it’s not at that point yet, you may have some wiggle room. Typically, I think a lot of people just get antsy. They want more money. They want a better title. They’re competitive. Who doesn’t want all those things? But, at the same time, if your job isn’t really all that bad, and you’re not completely hating life right now, I say stick it out a bit. After all, sometimes, things can turn around. Bosses leave companies. Political tides turn. Opinions change. Companies turn around. Things happen–and we can’t always predict that. My advice: Resist the urge to leave just because you’re “antsy.”
Remember, greener pastures are sometimes not-so-green
We see this all the time, right? I remember leaving my first agency job 14 or so years ago. I wanted to see what life was like on the “corporate” side (which was funny, because I went to work for a manufacturing company–real “corporate”, right?). I was tired of agency hours. Tired of time sheets. Tired of of a lot of things people get tired with when they work for agencies. I was ready for corporate! But, once I started into the corporate job, there were different challenges. Politics. Things moved REALLY slow. Challenging and change-averse co-workers. The pastures certainly were not greener–they were just DIFFERENT. My point: Don’t look for “greener pastures”. Look for a position that’s the right fit for YOU–and where you’re at in your life and career.